LONDON (Reuters) - The former royal editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid admitted for the first time at a London court on Wednesday that he had hacked the voicemails of Britain's Prince William and Prince Harry, and William's wife Kate Middleton.
Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 for illegally accessing the voicemails on the mobiles of royal aides, told the jury at the Old Bailey court he had hacked Queen Elizabeth's grandsons in search of stories while working at the now-defunct tabloid.
Middleton's phone was hacked 155 times, William's 35 and Harry's nine times, the court was told.
He targeted Middleton, who married William in 2011, on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in 2005. Despite her often changing the PIN number to access her voicemails, she was repeatedly hacked. The last time was on Aug. 7, 2006, the day before police arrested Goodman.
William was hacked for the first time in late January 2006, the court heard, the first time it had been revealed that his voicemails had been accessed.
Despite numerous hackings of the royals, Goodman said detectives had never before asked him about his tapping of the princes' phones.
Police reopened their investigation into phone-hacking in 2011. The subsequent scandal rocked the British establishment and led Murdoch to closing the 168-year-old News of the World.
Goodman, 56, is now on trial accused with the paper's former editor Andy Coulson, later Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief, of authorizing illegal payments to public officials.
Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, another former editor and later chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper arm are also on trial accused of phone-hacking offences.
All seven defendants on trial deny the charges.
Goodman had been absent from court since falling ill in March during cross-examination from Coulson's lawyer Timothy Langdale.
In earlier testimony, he said Coulson had agreed a project to fund a private detective to hack the phones of staff working for William and Harry.
Asked why he was now admitting hacking the royals themselves, Goodman said he could speak freely as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had made it clear he would not be facing any further action over hacking.
"I'm happy to give a full account of every single one of these (hackings)," Goodman told the court.
Langdale queried why he had not disclosed these details in response to questions he had put to him weeks ago when he only recalled hacking five royal aides and the son of Camilla Parker Bowles, the second wife of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles.
"Had you really forgotten that you had been hacking him (Prince William)," Langdale asked.
"I didn't recall specifics," Goodman replied.
The trial continues.
Editing by Stephen Addison