Hugh Grant, slain girl's parents make new hacking claims
Actor Hugh Grant launched a stinging attack on Britain's tabloids Monday, alleging at an inquiry that phone hacking was used by a non-Rupert Murdoch paper and that a burglary at his flat led to stories.
On a dramatic first day of evidence in Britain's press ethics probe, the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler also said Murdoch's News of the World gave them false hope that she was alive by deleting some of her messages.
Grant, best known for his comic roles in films like "Notting Hill", accused The Mail on Sunday newspaper of running a story on his relationship with socialite Jemima Khan in 2007 that he believed had been obtained by hacking.
In a bravura performance before the judge-led inquiry, which was televised live, Grant urged Britons to stand up to the "cowardly" behaviour of what he called the "privacy-invasion industry".
"Most shocking is that this has been allowed to go on for so long with no one putting their hand up and saying stop," he said, accusing newspaper barons of intimidating the police, lawmakers and government.
The 51-year-old by turns delivered quips that would not have been out of place in his movies; became testy with the line of questioning by the inquiry lawyer; and delivered impassioned criticism of the tabloid press.
His allegation against The Mail on Sunday, owned by the UK's Associated Newspapers group, was the second time the inquiry has heard claims that Murdoch's News of the World was not the only newspaper involved in phone hacking.
Grant said the story -- for which he later won a libel payout -- claimed his relationship with Khan was on the rocks and he was having late-night telephone chats with a "plummy voiced studio executive", but was false.
"I'd love to hear what their source was if it wasn't phone hacking," he said, while admitting that he had no firm evidence for the allegation.
In a statement, a spokesman for the weekly tabloid said it "utterly refutes" the claims, which were "mendacious smears driven by his hatred of the media".
The story "came from a freelance journalist who had been told by a source who was regularly speaking to Jemima Khan."
The financier's daughter then tweeted: "That's not true as the first time I heard anything about this was when I read about it in the MoS.
"The 'source' close to me must be psychic. The MoS claim that he/she gave them a story I knew nothing about till it was in the paper."
Grant also accused another tabloid, the Daily Mirror, owned by Trinity Mirror, of accessing his medical records.
A lawyer for the inquiry said last week that the Mirror was listed in notebooks seized by police from private detective Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking for the News of the World.
Grant added that he was suspicious of foul play following a break-in at his London flat in 1995. Nothing was stolen in the burglary, but a full description of the contents of the property later appeared in a newspaper.
The Daily Mail and the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun kept the story off their front pages on Tuesday, but the Guardian -- which uncovered the Milly Dowler scandal -- ran with a picture of Grant, who they described as "thoughtful, articulate, brave in an unheroic way and... very kind".
Prime Minister David Cameron launched the inquiry into the ethics of Britain's press in July after long-simmering claims about the News of the World boiled over with the revelations that Milly Dowler's voicemails were hacked.
Murdoch swiftly closed the News of the World.
Dowler's parents Sally and Bob testified ahead of Grant, with her mother describing how they repeatedly phoned the 13-year-old's mobile phone after she vanished in 2002, but her message box was full and went straight to an automated message.
Her voice rising with emotion, Sally Dowler said that one day she rang "and it went on to her voicemail. So I heard her voice, and it was just like I jumped, 'She's picked up her voicemails Bob, she's alive!'"
Despite Grant's allegations against the paper, Tuesday's edition of the Mirror focused on the inquiry, splashing "She is alive!" across its front page.
A statement from Mulcaire's lawyers said the investigator "confirms that he did not delete messages and had no reason to do so".
Mulcaire was jailed along with the News of the World's former royal editor Clive Goodman in January 2007 after they admitted intercepting voicemail messages left on phones belonging to royal aides.
Lord Justice Brian Leveson's inquiry will hear this week from other alleged victims of media intrusion, including actress Sienna Miller, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling and Gerry McCann, the father of the missing girl Madeleine McCann.
© 2011 AFP