Another of British media outlets linked to Rupert Murdoch was on Thursday dragged into the hacking row after Sky News admitted that it illegally hacked emails of two persons on separate occasions for stories.

But it defended its action claiming the stories thus obtained were in “public interest”.

The disclosure came barely two days after James Murdoch, Rupert's son and once heir-apparent, was forced to resign as chairman of Sky network, BSKYB, over allegations of his role in the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

Mr. Murdoch's New-York-based News Corps has a 39-per-cent stake in Sky and, last summer, came close to seizing full control of the satellite broadcaster by acquiring the remaining 61 per cent of its shares. But the deal was blocked following the NoW hacking row.

A Sky spokesman said that in 2002 the broadcaster hacked emails for a story relating to a man who tried to fake his own death in order for his wife to claim insurance money. Those targeted were John Darwin, who mysteriously disappeared while canoeing in the North Sea, and his wife, Anne, who acted as his accomplice and ended up claiming £500,000 in insurance payment after reporting him dead.

When the hoax came to light, the couple were convicted and jailed.

Sky News said it supplied the information it obtained through hacking to the police and it proved “pivotal” to the case.

The second hacking incident involved accessing emails of a suspected paedophile and his wife. Police said they were investigating “how the emails were obtained”.

In a statement, Sky News said that on both occasions its actions were “editorially justified and in public interest” and it stood by them.

Insisting that Sky News was “committed to the highest editorial standards”, it said: “We do not take such decisions lightly or frequently. They require finely balanced judgement based on individual circumstances and must always be subjected to the proper editorial controls.”

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