There were sea changes at the Metropolian Police Service MPS and at the News of the World NOTW as the 1990s came to a close.
The new MPS Commissioner – John Stevens – wanted to encourage positive press through a closer relationship with national newspapers. At NOTW a new editor – Rebekah Wade – had been appointed who was keen get headlines for their investigative exposés.
A new millenium needed a new modus operandi.
But there was a problem. NOTW could no longer use their favourite private detectives, Southern Investigations, as one of its owners had got a lengthy jail sentence for perverting the course of justice. Southern Investigations had been essential to NOTW, providing video surveillance equipment, bodyguards and customised information gathering.
In 1999, NOTW commissioned Southern to put then Deputy MPS Commissioner John Stevens under surveillance. This was on an unfounded and untrue tip that he was flying from London to Northumbria to visit a secret mistress. Whether this surveillance was with a view to publishing a story or whether it was to gain leverage is a contested point. In addition, NOTW may have used Southern investigations to put their own newspaper staff under surveillance