Rio Ferdinand told the High Court yesterday of the "stressful and embarrassing" effect a newspaper report had on his personal life after it alleged he had conducted an adulterous affair lasting 13 years.
On the second day of his legal action against Mirror Group Newspapers, Mr Ferdinand said people had "started shouting things out at me in the street after the article was published – things like 'Where's your new bird?'"
He acknowledged he had known the woman in question, Carly Storey, in his youth, but said he had not seen her for six years prior to the report. "It was stressful and very uncomfortable for me to have to do things like collect my kids from school, knowing that other parents there may have read the article and not realised that it was essentially a very old story," he said.
He added: "I accept that I have had a lot of benefits as a result of fame and fortune. I am not asking for any special treatment or to pretend that I am above criticism or a better person than anyone else. All I am asking for is the normal right to lead a private life which anyone has."
MGN's barrister, Gavin Millar QC, claimed it was in the public interest to detail the relationship, in light of how the England captain John Terry's affair with the former girlfriend of a teammate provoked a debate about the captaincy's responsibilities as a role model. At the time the article was published, Mr Terry had lost the role to Mr Ferdinand, making the issue particularly relevant, according to MGN.
Mr Ferdinand's barrister said that the Sunday Mirror's public interest defence was "extraordinarily thin". "John Terry was removed because he was said to have had an affair with the former girlfriend of a team-mate, making relations in the dressing room very difficult. No such suggestion has ever been made about the claimant," said Hugh Tomlinson QC.
Ms Storey has provided a witness statement for the case, but is abroad. The case continues.
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