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Pippa and Kate Middleton in October 2007 (Rex Features via AP Images)

The tabloid press hired a private detective to look into the private life of Kate Middleton when she was still a college student, according to an investigative report by The Independent.

The same detective agency, the paper reports, was also hired get information on Pippa Middleton while she was still a teenager.

Documents obtained by the Independent reveal that private investigator Steve Whittamore was hired by British newspapers in 2002 to uncover confidential information about Kate. After he was given Kate’s cell phone number and asked to locate the Middleton family home, the Independent reports, Whittamore was then asked to come up with Middleton family cell phone numbers and the numbers of the family’s friends and contacts. He returned with ten numbers and charged £500 for each one. The paper said Whittamore’s notebooks also included separate entries for information about Pippa.

The files obtained by the Independent show the detailed working of Whittamore’s operation, which included skillful “blagging,” or conning information from the unwitting, but also involved a vast network of illegal selling and trading of private data by public officials and police. Some of the information Whittamore obtained about Pippa came from one of his associates, a former Hell’s Angel who specialized in impersonating phone engineers.

“In total,” concluded the Independent, “the operation to target the Middleton sisters would have involved more than 50 breaches of the Data Protection Act.”

Whittamore was also reportedly hired to get all the dirt he could on the “hen” and “stag” parties before the wedding of Prince Edward to Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999.

Other non-royal targets included: Chelsea Clinton, J.K. Rowling and Jeremy Clarkson.

Whittamore was convicted of violating Britain’s Data Protection Act in 2005 and given a two-year suspended sentence.

In other royal related news:

• The debate over the Duchess of Cambridge’s influence on fashion continues. On Wednesday, Hollywood Life’s Bonnie Fuller jumped into the fray, with the pronouncement that “Kate Middleton is one of the biggest fashion trendsetters in the world today and it’s precisely because she looks pretty, chic, appropriate, and yet totally relatable.” Addressing her comments to “snooty fashionistas,” the fashion editor wrote: “She doesn’t have a stylist, she actually shops in affordable stores for young women like Zara, Reiss, Whistles and Banana Republic, just like millions of young women she sets trends for.”

Fuller lauded the Duchess for her approach to fashion in tough economic times. “It would be insensitive to dress expensively in her role as the future Queen,” she wrote.

Fuller argues that Kate has made it “fashionable to re-wear outfits” and says the Duchess has “guts,” especially when she’s under the scrutiny of “very snobby fashion pros.”

“Real women,” Fuller writes, “love it and they are following her classy example in droves.”

Fuller also cites some other fashion bigwigs in Kate’s defense.

Says Project Runway’s Nina Garcia: “We’ve only begun to see Kate’s style evolution and it looks promising.”

“Whoever’s criticizing her — they should spike sales the way she has,” stylist Robert Verdi told Hollywood Life.

“She’s a role model and she dresses like one,” said stylist Philip Block. “If that means she’s not wearing six-inch Christian Louboutins and monkey fur vests, so what!”

• People magazine has just weighed in and named Kate one of the year’s 10 Best Dressed.

• Designers Badgley Mischka clearly think that interest in the Duchess of Cambridge will help them in the dog-eat-dog competition for attention known as New York Fashion Week. They designed Kate and Will inspired dog costumes for Bergdorf Goodman’s Fashion Night Out dog show. (via FabSugar)


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By Paul Hechinger