Mills: I am treated as badly as Kate McCann and Diana

Heather Mills has launched a furious attack on "a certain corner" of the tabloid press, claiming a hate campaign against her pushed her "close to suicide".

Speaking on GMTV, the estranged wife of Sir Paul McCartney compared her treatment by the media to that suffered by Kate McCann and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Ms Mills, 39, who became highly emotional, broke down several times during the 20-minute interview. She denied being offered any money in her divorce settlement with Sir Paul and said she was £1.5m in debt to her lawyers. "I've had worse press than a paedophile or a murderer and I've done nothing but charity for 20 years," she said. "They've called me a whore, a gold digger, a fantasist, a liar, the most unbelievably hurtful things, and I've stayed quiet for my daughter."

Ms Mills approached GMTV herself, asking to appear on its show after a article in The Sun on Tuesday which alleged that a fireworks display at Ms Mills's daughter's fourth birthday party inadvertently killed a neighbour's dog.

Brandishing a folder of negative press cuttings about her, she said she had endured "18 months of abuse... and 4,400 articles". "I don't want my daughter when she is 12 going on the internet and reading this totally one-sided story."

She said she had received numerous death threats as a result of wildly inaccurate press speculation about her break-up from Sir Paul, which police warned her had spawned an "underground movement" against her. "Who created those death threats? The media," she said. "A certain part of the tabloid media created such a hate campaign against me; it put my life and my daughter's life at risk. That's why I considered killing myself, because I thought if I was dead, at least my daughter would be safe. And that is the truth, and I've got nothing to lose."

When asked by the GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips about the exorbitant sums some parts of the press had claimed she secured in her divorce settlement, Ms Mills responded furiously. "I have been offered nothing, OK, nothing... How do you know if I even want any money? I'm £1.5m in debt in lawyers' fees, and that's as much as I can say or I go to jail, for telling the truth."

Ms Mills repeatedly dismissed reports that she was locked in negotiations with Sir Paul over whether she could talk to the media. "It's rubbish! I could sell my story right now. I'm trying to protect Paul and our daughter."

She said she was launching an online petition to force the European Parliament into stricter regulation of a "specific portion" of the media. "My plan is to change the law in the European Parliament and I will do it," she said. "I need to get everybody to petition that they don't want to be lied to any more by the press. They want their children to grow up in a society where press is just and fair and the size of the lie they print is the size of the apology they have to print."

Comparing her treatment by the press to that of Kate McCann and Diana, Princess of Wales, she said: "Look what they're doing to the McCanns. The woman and the poor father have lost their daughter. What are we doing as a nation? What are we doing persecuting a woman that is devastated behind closed doors and trying to hold it together, as I have for 18 months. What did the paparazzi do to Diana? They chased her and they killed her."

Ms Mills, who lost her left leg after being hit by a police motorbike in 1993, castigated the broadcaster Jonathan Ross for joking "She's such an effing liar, we're going to find out she's got two legs instead of one".