Former footballer Paul Gascoigne told a court today that phone hacking by Mirror newspaper journalists had driven him to paranoia and left him feeling like “I would like to trade my mobile for a coffin because these guys have ruined my life”.
The one-time England star, who has spent years battling alcoholism and became a regular target for newspapers throughout his career, struggled to contain his emotions as he entered the witness box at the High Court in London to describe the effects of the eavesdropping on him. Before his evidence had even formally begun in Court 15 of the modern Rolls Building, he told the judge: “I’m fuming.”
Gascoigne, 47, had complained of 18 articles in the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People which arose from reporters listening in on his voicemails and left him in a state of constant anxiety that his private messages were being used as material for articles.
Dressed in a navy blue suit with an open-necked pink striped shirt, the former Tottenham player at times shook with anger as he described how he had changed his mobile phone up to five times a month between 2000 and 2010 in a vain attempt to stop the intrusion.
He said: “It was so scary. I was scared to speak to anybody. Whoever I spoke to - my family, my dad - it was just horrendous. And people can’t understand why I became an alcoholic.”
Gascoigne described how he at one point discussed his concerns about the phone hacking with his therapist, only to find that the clinician did not believe him and mistook his complaints as a manifestation of his mental problems.
He said: “At the time, I was going through a bad time. I knew I was getting hacked and as I spoke to him on phone it would click and I said [to the therapist] I am getting hacked. He said I’m paranoid and I was going through a mental disorder. I said there is fuck all wrong with me. I know am getting hacked. He put the phone down on us. I never told a lie. I never told a lie about anything.”
The footballer, who disclosed in his witness statement that he had contemplated suicide in 2000 because of the media attention being paid to him, became angry when he was told that lawyers for Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) had decided not to cross-examine him, saying it was “not appropriate” and apologising for his attendance in court.
He said: “I have waited 15 years to be sat here. I am disgusted really.”
Despite being told that the decision by MGN’s representatives meant that his complaint over the articles had been accepted in full, Gascoigne asked the judge, Mr Justice Mann, if he could say one thing before leaving the witness box. The footballer said: “I would like to trade my mobile in for a coffin because these guys have ruined my life.”
In his witness statement, Gascoigne added: “The most difficult and damaging thing was being convinced for years that I was being bugged in some way, which had a far more terrible effect on my mind, even though I also thought that my friends and family were leaking information about me.”
He said: “It was like I could never escape it and I became very anxious and unwell at the thought that it was a constant threat that I had to battle against. I became obsessed about being monitored.”
Gascoigne is one of eight victims of phone hacking, including broadcaster Alan Yentob and actress Shobna Gulati, suing MGN for damages.Reuse content