Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are speaking out after a private investigator revealed he had been hired by U.K. tabloid The Sun to dig into Meghan’s personal life during the early years of her romance with Harry.
U.S. private investigator Daniel Hanks told the BBC that he illegally obtained personal information belonging to Meghan and her family members, including her social security number, address and phone number.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex feel that today is an important moment of reflection for the media industry and society at large, as this investigative report shows that the predatory practices of days past are still ongoing, reaping irreversible damage for families and relationships,” a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said. “They are grateful to those working in media who stand for upholding the values of journalism, which are needed now more than ever before.”
Samir Hussein/WireImage Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Hanks said he decided to come forward about his work for The Sun “to clear my conscience.”
Asked what he would say to Meghan and Harry directly, the private investigator said: “I’m deeply sorry for what I did…and I’m available if your lawyers need to talk to me. I’m ready to give you what I know. Supply you with any information. I just wish this had never happened.”
Get the premiere issue of PEOPLE Royals for glamorous new photos and inside stories royals fans haven’t seen or read elsewhere! Subscribe at peopleroyals.com/launch
Hanks said he found all his information through “legal means” with the exception of the social security numbers, which he called “the key to the kingdom.”
Samir Hussein/WireImage Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
The publishers of The Sun, News Group Newspapers, released a statement admitting to hiring Hanks. However, they said he “was not tasked to do anything illegal or breach any privacy laws — indeed he was instructed clearly in writing to act lawfully and he signed a legal undertaking that he would do so.”
They added that The Sun did not request Meghan’s social security number or use the information he provided “for any unlawful practice.”
Samir Hussein/WireImage Meghan Markle
Prince Harry, 36, is involved in a lawsuit against The Sun on a separate case. In Oct. 2019, claims were filed on behalf of the Duke of Sussex against News UK (owner of The Sun) and MGN (former owner of The Mirror) at the High Court regarding alleged illegal interception of voicemail messages.
Can’t get enough of PEOPLE‘s Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!
Last month, Meghan, 39, won her claim against the Mail on Sunday‘s publishers after a British judge granted summary judgment in her favor over five articles published in February 2019 that reproduced parts of the handwritten letter she sent her father, Thomas Markle, following her royal wedding to Prince Harry in May 2018.
In response to the ruling, Meghan said, “These tactics (and those of their sister publications MailOnline and the Daily Mail) are not new; in fact, they’ve been going on for far too long without consequence.”
“For these outlets, it’s a game. For me and so many others, it’s real life, real relationships, and very real sadness,” she added. “The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep.”