Leveson Inquiry: Hugh Grant Bleat, Milly Dowler’s Parents Suffer And Mark Lewis Asks The Key Question
MILLY Dowling’s parents and Hugh Grant have been giving testimony at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards. The news is on the front pages of the:
Daily Star: “Day We Thought Milly Was Alive – Parents of missing schoolgirl reveal phone-hacking torment”
Daily Mirror: “After desperately praying for their missing daughter Milly, her mum finally got a breakthrough that convinced her she was safe. She turned to husband Bob and exclaimed ‘She Is Alive!”‘
Independent: “She picked up her voicemails, Bob. She is alive!”
Daily Telegraph: “‘Bob, she’s alive.’mother’s false hope after Milly’s phone hacked”
Other papers focus on the celebrity. The tabloid’s winning mantra ‘If it bleeds it leads’ is overshot by the lust for celebrity news.
The Times: “A celebrity’s story: Grant accuses Mail on Sunday of phone hacking”
The Guardian: “Grant’s stand: ‘If these are straight balls I’d hate to see your googlies’”
Hugh Grant may have been a victim of the phone hackers, but does anyone really sympathise with the rich star? We are more interested in Grant’s sex life than his testimony? If the actor revealed a titbit of news on his private life, that would take precedence over his words on press standards. Grant’s story lacks all the pain of the Dowlings experiences at the hands of the News of The World’s spooks. Their daughter, Milly Dowling, was the victim of a crime. The paper interfered with an ongoing investigation – an investigation carried out in climate of press and police collusion. Why was Dowling spied on? Why did the police not know – and if they did know, why did they not stop it? Who trained the tabloid spies?
Milly Dowler was 13 when she was abducted and murdered by Levi Bellfield. The killer also murdered Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange. He’s now in jail answering to the name Mohammed. Her parent’s story is unbearable. Rupert Murdoch apologised for hier title’s tole in their suffering. The Dowlings were gracious enough to accept it.
The Mirror rounds-up Grant’s appearance:
But he told the inquiry: “I don’t have a good name. I’m the man who was arrested with a prostitute and the film (Four Weddings) still made lots of money.” Grant had angry exchanges with Robert Jay, QC, counsel to the inquiry, who repeatedly said he could not back up claims that newspapers had bent rules or broken laws to write about him. At one point Grant said: “You told me backstage you would bowl me straight balls. If these are straight balls I’d hate to see your googlies.” The actor insisted he was in favour of a free press and claimed: “It’s fine to hate me. It’s been extremely fashionable for a long time and that’s what I expect in this country.”
Grant was rejecting tabloid defence that celebrities deserved to have their sex lives exposed because they were trading on false images of themselves. But Grant goes further. He presents himself as the eternal victim of a spiteful nation envious of his success.
The Guardian reports his accusation against the Mail on Sunday:
Grant also referred to a report in the Mail on Sunday in February 2007, which said his relationship with his then girlfriend, Jemima Khan, was “on the rocks” because of “persistent late-night phone calls with a plummy-voiced executive from Warner Brothers” – a story he said was “completely untrue”.
He told the inquiry that he believed that the story came from “a great friend of mine in Los Angeles” associated with Warner Brothers and whose assistant was “a charming married lady” who was English. He said that “she’d leave charming jokey messages” for him asking him to call various Hollywood executives, which led the actor to conclude subsequently that “I cannot for the life of me think of any conceivable source for this story in the Mail on Sunday except those voice messages on my mobile telephone”.
Again, shortly after the inquiry closed for the day, the Mail on Sunday released a statement saying it “utterly refutes Grant’s claim that they got any story as a result of phone hacking” and the newspaper said that the information came from a freelance journalist who was “regularly speaking to Jemima Khan”.
Khan, though, responded on Twitter to say that the Mail on Sunday’s account was “not true” and that the source “close to me must be psychic” because she “knew nothing about [it] till it was in the paper”.
Grant makes another claia:
“I had been very reluctant to be present at the birth because of the danger of a leak from the hospital bringing this press storm down on the mother of my child and what was about to be my child. So I had actually made a plan with the mother not to visit at all but to visit when she got home from hospital a few days later. But actually on the day after the birth I couldn’t resist a quick visit. I thought I was going to try and get away with it. I went, had a look, it was very nice. But the day after that, I think it was, the phone calls started, from the Daily Mail in this case, saying ‘We know about Tinglan having had the baby, we know about Hugh having visited, we know what name she checked in under, we’re going to write this story’.”
The Mail did not run the story about the birth until the story was broken by an American magazine. But Mr Grant said he thought that the Mail had not published the story because it “would not have looked good to have published it merely on leaked information from a hospital, which is unethical”.
The Mail confonts another of Grant’s claims:
During a combative appearance, the actor also accused the Daily Mail of obtaining information about the recent birth of his baby with Chinese ex-girlfriend Tinglan Hong from a source at a London hospital. The Mail unequivocally denied the allegation, saying the information came from a showbusiness source two weeks after the birth, and stressing that it spent a further two weeks seeking a response from Mr Grant’s representatives. “None was forthcoming and indeed we did not publish anything until Mr Grant’s publicist issued a statement describing the baby as the product of a ‘fleeting affair’. Throughout, the Mail behaved with total journalistic propriety. Mr Grant also claimed the Daily Mail had paid £125,000 to Miss Hong’s former boyfriend for pictures. In fact, it was the Mail on Sunday which conducted an interview with him, paying a fraction of the amount mentioned by Mr Grant to an agency for the interview and photographs.
Much is being revealed about Grant’s life – mroe than we might have gleaned through a newspaper story. Much is being revealed about the way the tabloids work. But nothing has been heard of who trained Glen Mulcaire, the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire jailed for phone hacking. The last words are with the Dowler family’s solicitor Mark Lewis:
“Whether he listened to the messages and wiped messages out or whether somebody else was wiping messages out to create more room for more messages to be left, is one of the points the police will undoubtedly have to investigate and explore… Milly Dowler’s phone wasn’t registered, it was a pay-as-you-go, so Glenn Mulcaire would have found out the phone number – and one has to question where details of the phone number came from.”
Answer that question and the investigation into press standards begins to get somewhere…
The witnesses to come:
Steve Coogan actor Mary-Ellen Field Elle Macpherson’s former assistant Garry Flitcroft footballer Margaret Watson mother of murder victim
Sheryl Gascoigne ex-wife of Paul Mark Lewis lawyer Gerry McCann father of missing Madeline Tom Rowland journalist
HJK (anonymous phone-hacking victim) Sienna Miller actress Max Mosley Formula 1 chief J. K. Rowling author Mark Thomson lawyer
Charlotte Church singer Anne Diamond TV presenter Ian Hurst former British Army intelligence officer Chris Jefferies falsely accused in murder case Jane Winter human rights campaigner