'I want my day in court,' says manager sacked by Elle Macpherson

Mary-Ellen Field says phone hacking destroyed her career. James Cusick reports

For some it will be a revenge arena. Mary-Ellen Field doesn't see it like that. Sure, she wants her day in court, but when Lord Justice Leveson begins hearing evidence soon, the former business manager of Elle "The Body" Macpherson, simply wants the lights switched back on.

In the phone-hacking wars, lawyers call Ms Field "collateral damage". Among the "core participants" who will gather at the High Court to begin the de-programming of the Establishment's love affair with the Murdoch empire, Ms Field's case holds the potential to become a large claimant against News International. Yet her phone may not have been hacked at all. The seven-figure damages her lawyer is looking for is a hybrid calculation based on five years of lost income, deteriorating health and professional ostracisation.

Anything that begins with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and ends in the Royal Courts of Justice isn't going to be routine. Ms Field began working with Macpherson in 2003. The Killara-born model had outgrown the exposure business and was seeking credibility and wealth using her brand "The Body", which held strong trademark potential. Ms Field's background in intellectual property management had been noted by the accountancy firm Chiltern, which headhunted her. Ms Field did more than tweak Macpherson's business portfolio. Licensing deals for her lingerie collection were revamped; her trademark cut for every "Body" bra sold brought in more cash. Ms Field describes "the most fantastic two years, where everything was brilliant and we had the best time". Then Macpherson split with her partner, the financier Arki Busson, in 2005. Stories began appearing in the press about the relationship. Ms Field says she and her client were worried. "I put people on tight confidentiality agreements, because we just couldn't find out where the stories were coming from," she says. One story mentioned Busson might push for custody of the couple's kids. "The only people who had discussed this possibility were the two of us," Ms Field says. "We had talked about what Arki might do in calls between us."

A security firm was then called in to sweep their offices and homes for bugs. If there were tensions, Ms Field hadn't noticed. Macpherson described her adviser to a magazine as "the nuts and bolts of the business". Things appeared good. "Elle had asked me to contact Suzy Menkes, the high-profile fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune," Ms Field says.

Then Ms Field was told by Macpherson's lawyer that on no account was she to meet Menkes. Ms Field called her client. "She said to me, 'I don't want you talking to the media'," Ms Field says.

The relationship was in freefall. Ms Field says Macpherson blamed her for leaking stories to the press.

When Macpherson fired her, Ms Field was 57. Her employers, Chiltern, sacked her in March 2006. But in February, police investigating the hacking of royal phones told Macpherson they suspected she was a victim of the dark arts that were to lead to the jailing of Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman – and the Leveson Inquiry. Macpherson opted for silence, Ms Field says. "I got sick and eventually I was diagnosed as suffering from vasovagal syncope, a neurocardiogenic condition. I needed surgery and had a pacemaker fitted." Mulcaire and Goodman were jailed in January 2007. "The judge, Mr Justice Gos, read out a list of those who were victims," Ms Field says. "Max Clifford, Gordon Taylor, Elle Macpherson. He said others must be involved. I wrote to police telling them I was involved. They never wrote back."

In August last year, Ms Field's pen was busy again. "I'm chair of my local Conservative Association," she says. "I pushed within the party for someone to get the finger out. I knew the appointment of Andy Coulson was a huge error. I was so pissed off. I wrote to David Cameron asking him why Coulson had rights to a second chance but I didn't."

Ms Field's lawyer, Mark Lewis, notes that Max Clifford got £1m from News International; Gordon Taylor got £700,000. Simon Hughes and Sky Andrews are still suing. "Yet Elle Macpherson is still saying after five years that bygones should be bygones," he says.

"She is silent on just what her compensation has been from News International. Now we may learn from Leveson just what 'letting bygones be bygones' actually means."

Macpherson's spokesman declined to comment on Ms Field and Mr Lewis's version of events, with one exception: "Elle has not at any time sought or received any settlement, in any form, from News International (or any other related company, entity or individual). Nor are there any claims, discussions or other activities outstanding in relation to the issue."

Ms Field expects NI to make one final push to buy her off. "It won't work. I want my day in court. I don't want Leveson to regulate the press. I don't want a Libya or a Syria in Britain. But there was a fear driven by Rupert Murdoch. People were frightened by the dirt he had on them."

She wants jail for those who broke the law. "But you need the media, the Fourth Estate, to do its job," she says. "You need the police and the judiciary to do the same. You need politicians to do what they're elected to do. If you don't get this right you end up with a fragile democracy – and maybe because of Rupert Murdoch we haven't had democracy in this country for a long time."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Call Handler

£14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a Sales Ca...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers unique pers...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor