Hugh Grant alleges hacking by non-Murdoch tabloid
Mother of murdered girl earlier testified phone hacking made her think daughter was alive
Actor Hugh Grant has told the U.K. phone-hacking inquiry he believes his phone was hacked by British tabloid the Mail On Sunday — the first time he has implicated a newspaper not owned by Rupert Murdoch in the wrongdoing.
Grant told the inquiry in London into British media ethics on Monday that a 2007 story in the Mail On Sunday tabloid about his romantic life could only have been obtained through eavesdropping on his voice mails.
The actor said he could not think of any other way the paper — owned by Murdoch rival Associated Newspapers Ltd., — could have obtained the story about his phone conversations with a "plummy voiced" woman.
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The story alleged that his romance with Jemima Khan was on the rocks because of those conversations with a woman the paper identified as a film studio executive.
Grant said there was no such woman, but he did receive voice messages from the assistant of a movie producer friend.
"She would leave charming, joking messages ... and she had a voice that can only be described as plummy," he said.
Grant sued the newspaper for libel and won.
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Earlier, the parents of murdered teen Milly Dowler told the inquiry that phone hacking on behalf of a British tabloid made them think that she was still alive.
Sally Dowler testified that her 13-year-old daughter's phone had been cleared of some messages shortly after she disappeared in early 2002, suggesting that she was checking her voicemail.
In fact Milly was dead and the person clearing the messages worked for the News of the World tabloid.
The Dowler parents have previously made similar statements, but Monday was the first time the pair spoke out on national television.
The Dowlers were the first in a string of scheduled witnesses, which included celebrities such as actor Hugh Grant, actress Sienna Miller, and author J.K. Rowling. They were scheduled to testify to a judge-led inquiry set up by Prime Minister David Cameron, elaborating on complaints that they were followed, photographed, entrapped and harassed by tabloid journalists.
Also testifying Monday morning was lawyer Graham Shear, who specializes in media law. He represented actor Jude Law in a case against the News of the World and was himself the target of phone hacking.
The Dowlers also described their shock and anger when a private walk to retrace their missing daughter's steps was secretly photographed by the tabloid.
Sally Dowler said she and her husband Bob had no idea they were being observed as they walked near their home in May 2002, but days later saw the pictures in the News of the World.
Grant a fierce critic
"It just felt like such an intrusion into a really, really private grief moment," she said. The couple said they later realized that their own phone, as well as their daughter's, had been hacked.
Grant, a fierce critic of press intrusion, smiled for photographers as he arrived Monday morning at the Royal Courts of Justice for the hearings. The actor told the inquiry that media photographers harassed his former girlfriend, Tinglan Hong, once she became pregnant with the pair's child and after she gave birth.
Later in the week come Harry Potter author Rowling, comedian Steve Coogan, Miller and former Formula 1 boss Max Mosley — whose taste for sadomasochism was revealed to the world in a widely publicized News of the World sting.
It's a courtroom lineup Britain's celebrity-obsessed tabloids would love, if only they weren't the ones in the dock.
Cameron set up the inquiry into media ethics and practices in the wake of a still-evolving scandal over phone hacking at the tabloid. Owner Rupert Murdoch shut down the paper in July after evidence emerged that it had routinely eavesdropped on the voice mails of public figures, celebrities and even crime victims in the search for scoops.
More than a dozen journalists and editors have been arrested, and several senior Murdoch executives have resigned over the still-evolving scandal.
The inquiry is run by a judicial body that could recommend sweeping changes to the way Britons get their news. It is chaired by Brian Leveson, a judge in the Court of Appeal.