April 5, 2012 at 9:14 AM ET
LONDON -- U.K. broadcaster Sky News -- part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation -- admitted Thursday that it approved the hacking of emails by a journalist, but insisted it had been done in the public interest.
The news channel said that in one case it broke into the emails belonging to Anne and John Darwin, who became notorious after the latter tried to fake his own death in a canoeing accident as part of an elaborate insurance fraud.
The news channel said in a statement Thursday that "we do not take such decisions lightly or frequently" and said the investigation had served the public interest, The Associated Press reported.
John Ryley, the head of Sky News, told The Guardian newspaper that the broadcaster had "authorized a journalist to access the emails of individuals suspected of criminal activity."
The Guardian named the journalist involved as Gerard Tubb, the broadcaster's northern England correspondent.
Darwin went missing in Britain in 2002 after going out to sea in a canoe and was presumed dead. However, he flew to Panama and his wife later joined him there. They were exposed after posing for a photograph with a realtor in Panama.
Sky News didn't identify which story was the result of hacking, but The Associated Press reported that in an article dated July 21, 2008, Tubb said the channel had uncovered documentary evidence showing that John Darwin had decided to come back to England because he was having trouble staying in Panama.
"We discovered an email," the article begins, without giving any explanation of how the message was obtained.
Sky News said the emails were later handed to police, according to The AP.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.