Leveson witnesses take the stand to tell their side of the story
James Cusick on yesterday's key accounts – from the footballer caught by a kiss and tell, to a family ordeal that started with a scoop
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Wednesday 23 November 2011
Elle Macpherson's adviser forced into needless rehab
The former business adviser of the Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson offered an insight into the "collateral damage" caused by phone hacking at the News of the World.
Mary-Ellen Field was a specialist in intellectual property rights when she was appointed as Ms Macpherson's adviser in 2003. The Australian model's businesses were rearranged by Ms Field, with success that led to leading accountancy magazines putting Ms Field on their cover. As the business prospered, their friendship also grew.
But in 2005 details of Ms Macpherson's private life in London began to appear in newspapers. Her split with her then boyfriend became "tittle tattle" in the UK media. Initially Ms Field tried to help the supermodel find the leaks: unregistered phones were bought and both Macpherson's house and cars were swept for "bugs". Ms Field told the inquiry that when the blame eventually fell on her, she was "astounded". Lawyers acting for Ms Macpherson gave Ms Field an ultimatum: she was accused of being an alcoholic who had spoken to the press, but if she went to a rehab clinic in Arizona she would not be fired.
She told the inquiry of the horrors she had endured at the rehab centre, which after examination, declared her not to be an alcoholic. But when she returned from the US, both the supermodel and her employers, the accountancy firm, Chilterns, fired her.
When Macpherson was named as a potential phone-hacking victim, she realised the source of the leaks.
A couple's harrowing tale of death and the media
Phone hacking was pushed to one side for 30 minutes yesterday as the Leveson Inquiry heard some of the most harrowing testimony it is likely to endure over the coming months.
Margaret and Jim Watson from Glasgow gave an emotional account of their 16-year-old daughter Diane being murdered in her school playground by a fellow pupil and how, 18 months later, after derogatory articles about her continued to be published, their only son, Alan, 15, took his own life, with cuttings of articles about Diane in his hand.
The articles were published in 1991 by the Glasgow Herald columnist Jack McLean. Said to be campaigning on the issue of treatment of young offenders, Mr Mclean offered social excuses for the murder of Diane Watson. The Watsons said the pieces besmirched their daughter's name and were inaccurate, with a follow-up by Mr McLean being published on the day of their son's funeral.
Another article, in Marie Claire in 1992, on British children serving life sentences, was also criticised by the Watsons , and they eventually received an apology for the distress caused.
The inquiry was told by Mr and Mrs Watson that the Press Complaints Commission "wasn't interested in what we had to say." Mrs Watson said it should be abolished.
Newsquest, publisher of the Herald, said Mr McLean had been a freelance journalist and that the newspaper was now under different ownership.
The People hacked my phone, footballer alleges
A former Premiership footballer who tried to stop a tabloid paper publishing details of his adultery suggested yesterday that journalists may have hacked his phone.
Ex-Blackburn Rovers captain Garry Flitcroft took out an injunction in April 2001 to prevent The People running a "kiss and tell" story about a brief affair.
This was overturned by the Court of Appeal in early 2002, leading to public humiliation for the married father when his name was finally disclosed.
Mr Flitcroft suggested that the revelations about his affair may have contributed to his father's suicide years later. He said his father, who had suffered from depression for years, had stopped watching him play "because the chants were so bad."
"I would say over the years his depression got worse because he wasn't watching me play football," he said.
Flitcroft told the Leveson Inquiry he "strongly suspected" reporters hacked his phone to discover details of a second woman with whom he had an affair. But he admitted he had no firm evidence his voicemail messages were illegally intercepted. He told the inquiry: "That is just speculation. I have no evidence. It just seems a massive coincidence the same newspaper gets two girls in the space of a couple of months."
The inquiry heard that The People was edited at the time by Neil Wallis, who went on to become executive editor of the News of the World.
Carine Patry Hoskins, counsel to the inquiry, said both women denied blackmailing Flitcroft.
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