The Prince Harry Private Investigator: What Went Wrong?

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Private investigator Gavin Burrows has apologised for his role in “robbing” Prince Harry of his teenage years. We take a keen interest in investigative ethics, so let’s take apart this case and look at what went wrong.

The Background

In the early 2000s, tabloid journalism had a real fixation on the young Prince. They realised that having his face on the cover sold more papers. The Leveson Inquiry noted that dysregulation fostered a culture of recklessness in the British Press, which led to damaging practices in journalism, including the invasion of Prince Harry’s privacy.

The News of the World, which was forced to close down in 2011 for its illegal and unethical journalistic practices, was among the most famous tabloids in Britain. The paper allegedly offered detectives substantial sums of money to engage in criminal activity for finding publishable information. Gavin Burrows, one such private investigator, has now apologised for his involvement.

Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy

Among the victims of what came to be known as the ‘Phone Hacking Scandal’ was the girlfriend of Prince Harry, who was only 17 years old at the time. At the start of the millennium, the young Prince was seeing a woman called Chelsy Davy. Burrows and other investigators are alleged to have illegally accessed data from Davy’s phones.

Burrows admitted the following in an interview for the BBC documentary The Prince and the Press:


“There was a lot of voicemail hacking going on. A lot of surveillance work on [Davy’s] phones, on her comms.”

He also added:

“Chelsy would brag to her friends when she was going to see him.”


The Duke of Sussex is currently engaged in a civil suit against the publishers who owned the News of the World. We should note that Burrows has not explicitly admitted to personally intercepting communications.

Burrows’ Admission

Although he didn’t outright state that he participated in the phone hacking, Burrows acknowledged that he knew what was happening and implied his involvement in one way or another. He said in the documentary:

“I was basically part of a group of people who robbed [Prince Harry] of his normal teenage years.”

Burrows blamed drug abuse problems for his “delusions of grandeur”. He added that he was “very sorry” and admitted to being “greedy.” While it’s commendable that the investigator now takes some responsibility for his actions, it’s not an excuse for compromising investigative ethics.

Keeping it Ethical: Investigative Integrity

So, what can we learn from this case? It’s clear from Gavin Burrows’ words that journalists enticed the investigators into breaking the law with the promise of large amounts of cash.

A good private investigator will always refuse to access information illegally, regardless of the money offered. As well as a commitment to following the law, reputable PIs will have a code of ethics. It’s not enough only to follow the letter of the law. Investigations should be responsible and avoid causing harm wherever possible.

As private investigators, we’re primarily interested in helping people, but not at the cost of others. We would never agree to an investigation that would cause serious psychological harm purely for the sake of profit. The main takeaway from this disappointing case should be that private investigators deal with human affairs, and as a result, should never lose sight of their humanity.

Private Investigations UK  is committed to ethics, integrity, and professionalism. All our investigations are entirely legal, and we conduct ourselves responsibly at all times. To discuss our services, free of charge, please call 0800 002 0898. Alternatively, please send us a message, and we’ll get back to you today.

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