Tessa Jowell told her phone was hacked 'wholesale'

 

The former cabinet minister Tessa Jowell has been told by police that her mobile phone was hacked "wholesale" by the News of the World and is preparing to settle her damages claim against the defunct title out of court.

Ms Jowell told The Independent she was informed by officers from Scotland Yard's Operation Weeting, the investigation into voicemail interception, that her phone was targeted "very extensively" during the time that her estranged husband, David Mills, was mired in controversy about his links to the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The senior Labour politician said she had received an apology from Rupert Murdoch's News International and expected her High Court civil lawsuit against the company to be settled out of court by the end of this month. Ms Jowell also said she will give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in the new year.

She said: "I was very extensively hacked – 'wholesale' as it was put to me. It was quite clear it was wholesale as there were things no one else should have known. It makes you feel like you're going mad. It made me feel like I couldn't trust anyone at the time."

The revelation of the extent to which Ms Jowell was targeted by the NOTW came as it emerged that her cabinet colleague David Blunkett, a former home secretary, has accepted a settlement from NI for an undisclosed but "substantial" sum following hacking of his phone. Mr Blunkett resigned as home secretary in 2004 after the NOTW published details of his affair with Kimberly Fortier. Mr Blunkett declined to comment on the settlement. A spokeswoman said: "Protecting his private life involves not answering questions which are entirely his business."

Ms Jowell and her husband became the subjects of intensive media scrutiny in 2006 when allegations were made against Mr Mills that he had accepted a £350,000 bribe from Mr Berlusconi, which was used partly to pay off the mortgage on the couple's London home. Ms Jowell was cleared of any wrongdoing and charges against her husband were dropped because of Italy's statute of limitations. Ms Jowell said she did not rule out an eventual rapprochement with Mr Mills. She said: "He has his house, I have my house. I visit him. We have a family. We'll see."

Scotland Yard confirmed over the weekend that the total number of phone-hacking victims will be about 800. The figure means that NI is likely to face a huge bill for civil damages claims, but also reveals that police believe substantially fewer than the 5,795 individuals identified in material seized from the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire actually had their voicemails intercepted.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers said officers had contacted 2,037 people, of whom 803 were victims or likely targets for hacking. She said: "We are confident we have contacted all the people who have been hacked."