Police officer who was friend of Barrymore sues over hacking

 

A gay police officer apparently targeted for his friendship with television personality Michael Barrymore, a former Labour minister and the ex-wife of rock star Noel Gallagher yesterday became the latest people to lodge damages claims for phone hacking against Rupert Murdoch's News International.

The three lawsuits lodged in the High Court by Dan Lichters, Claire Ward and Meg Matthews add to the burgeoning list of about 30 damages claims already brought against the defunct News of the World and the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire which are now likely to cost Mr Murdoch's empire far more than the £20m originally set aside to settle.

The new claims, which are being brought by the London-based law firm Collyer Bristow following the disclosure of documents showing that each claimant was targeted by Mr Mulcaire, raise allegations that the private detective was used to hack into the voicemails of a serving police officer. Mr Lichters was working as a plain clothes officer in the Met Police when his relationship with Mr Barrymore was revealed in the months following the death of Stuart Lubbock, whose body was found in the television star's swimming pool after a party in March 2001.

The openly gay constable revealed later that he had been removed from his undercover duties as a result of the publicity about his friendship with Mr Barrymore, which began at least six months after Mr Lubbock's death. A story revealing the relationship was published by The Sun on 2 November 2001 along with a photograph of the two men out shopping. Mr Lichters' lawyer last night declined to comment on whether his lawsuit complained of articles in The Sun, the sister paper of the News of the World.

Ms Ward won her Watford seat in Labour's 1997 landslide, and was promoted to a junior justice minister in 2009. She lost her seat in 2010. Ms Matthews became a tabloid favourite following her relationship Oasis founder Noel Gallagher. Matthews, now a successful interior designer, divorced from Gallagher in 2001.

Steven Heffer, at Collyers Bristow, last night declined to comment on any details of the claims. News International said last night it was unable to comment on individual damages claims being made against it.

The lawsuits came as Scotland Yard announced it had extended the police bail of a detective involved in Operation Weeting, the Yard's investigation into phone hacking. The 51-year-old detective constable, who was arrested on suspicion of passing information about the inquiry to The Guardian, will answer bail on 15 December.

Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck has dropped an attempt to make News International continue the payment of his wages while he sues the newspaper for unfair dismissal. His case was due to start today but has been put back to a later date.

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