Comic Coogan slams British tabloid dirty tricks

22nd November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Comedian Steve Coogan became the latest star to criticise tabloid dirty tricks, telling Britain's phone-hacking inquiry Tuesday that the News of the World improperly obtained his personal details.

The probe also heard that supermodel Elle Macpherson fired her former aide after mistakenly accusing her of leaking stories that were in fact obtained through hacking by the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper.

A day after Hollywood star Hugh Grant addressed the judge-led inquiry in London into the ethics of the press, Coogan said he and his fellow actor felt they had to speak up for other victims of hacking.

"It's not the Steve and Hugh show," said Coogan, who is best known in Britain for creating the spoof chat show host Alan Partridge, and has also appeared in films including "Around the World in 80 Days."

"We are here not with great enthusiasm, we are here because somebody has to represent all those other people who have not had the stomach to be here," he added.

Sporting long hair and a dark suit, Coogan said that in 2009 he had gained access to the notebooks of Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective who was employed by the paper and who was jailed in 2007 for hacking.

Coogan said that the notes contained details of the comedian's phone account and password, as well as how much money the star had taken from a bank machine.

"Somebody must have been looking over my shoulder," he said.

The actor also alleged that Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World, had lured Coogan into a telephone conversation with a woman in the Sunday paper's office to reveal details of an affair, which was recorded.

Coogan said Coulson then personally rang his manager saying they were going to run the whole thing, and the reassurances that lurid details would be left out were just a ruse to get him talking.

"It's like the mafia, it's just business," Coogan said.

Coogan, who has been a fixture in Britain's tabloids due to a complicated love-life that included a relationship with US rocker Courtney Love, insisted that he had never sought fame.

Coulson resigned in 2007 after Mulcaire was jailed, although he denied all knowledge of phone-hacking. He went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief but quit that job earlier this year and was arrested in July.

The News of the World was shut down by Murdoch in July after it emerged that it had hacked the phone messages of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, whose parents testified to the inquiry in London on Monday.

On Tuesday, Mary-Ellen Field, the former business adviser to supermodel Macpherson, told how she is currently suing Australian-born tycoon Murdoch's News International group over alleged illegal voicemail hacking.

Field, who has a severely disabled son, said she was hired by Macpherson in 2003 but in 2005 she was summoned to a meeting and accused of being an alcoholic.

Field, who is also Australian, said Macpherson gave her the choice of going to rehab or losing her job, adding: "She put her arms around me and says she knows what it's like to be an alcoholic".

Macpherson then accused Field of speaking to the media on 11 occasions, which Field denied.

A series of stories about the break-up of Macpherson's relationship to Swiss multi-millionaire Arpad Busson had appeared in papers, she said.

Field said she went to a clinic but Macpherson fired her anyway, and the company that employed her made her redundant two months later.

It later emerged that the stories had allegedly emerged through phone-hacking.

Former English Premier League footballer Garry Flitcroft also testified, saying he believed journalists may have hacked his phone to discover details of an affair.

The ex-Blackburn Rovers captain, who had taken out an injunction in 2001 to stop a newspaper running another "kiss and tell" story, said he believed his father's suicide in 2008 was partly due to the stress.

The hacking inquiry was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron in July amid public anger over the scandal.

© 2011 AFP

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