Leveson Inquiry: Ex-footballer Garry Flitcroft in suicide claim

Garry Flitcroft said his father stopped watching him play football because of ''taunting'' from the terraces

Former footballer Garry Flitcroft has told an inquiry into media ethics that reporting of his private life may have contributed to his father's suicide.

In 2002, the then Blackburn Rovers captain lost a bid to stop the Sunday People naming him in a story about him having extra-marital affairs.

Mr Flitcroft said his father stopped watching him play as the chanting was so bad - making his depression worsen.

Lord Justice Leveson is hearing from alleged victims of media intrusion.

Mr Flitcroft said a woman he had been seeing in 2001 demanded £3,000 for breast enhancement when he ended their relationship and threatened to take a printout of text messages he had sent her to his parents.

'I had a wife'

The former midfielder said an envelope was subsequently sent to his parents and he contacted his lawyer, who said a reporter had spoken to him and an article was due to be published in the Sunday People newspaper.

Mr Flitcroft applied for an injunction to prevent the article's publication.

Two days into the evidence at an inquiry into press standards, and already there have been complaints about the way some sections of the press are reporting it.

When Hugh Grant, inside the hearing, accused the Mail on Sunday of hacking his phone, the newspaper, outside the courtroom, accused the actor of "mendacious smears".

His barrister said this was less of a right of reply, more a right of attack. The paper maintained it was responding to a serious allegation of criminal conduct supported by the "flimsiest of material".

The concern, which is shared by Lord Justice Leveson, is that witnesses might be put off raising their head above the parapet and criticising the way reporters behave, if they fear they'll be attacked in print once they leave the witness box.

"I had a wife and a kid and I've got a very, very close family," he said. "All I could think about was it going in the newspaper and being seen nationally and the effect it would have on her."

He said a second woman with whom he had also had an affair tried to blackmail him into paying £5,000 for her not to go to the media.

The Lord Chief Justice later ruled that the injunction could not be extended and details of Mr Flitcroft's affairs were published. Mr Flitcroft said he was doorstepped just before he told his wife, who was "devastated". They subsequently split up.

Mr Flitcroft said when he was revealed as the footballer behind the injunction, he was besieged by press interest. "It seemed like they wanted to make a statement to me to never take on the press again," he said.

"There's no reason why my private life should be in the public interest," Mr Flitcroft added. "If I'd been done for match-fixing or taking cocaine then that's in the public interest."

Mr Flitcroft said his father, who had suffered from depression since his 20s, had attended all of his games since he began playing at the age of seven.

But he said his father stopped watching him play immediately after news of his affairs broke "because the chants were so bad".

"Suffering from anxiety and depression you've got to have something in your life and his life was watching me play football."

Alcoholism allegations

Mr Flitcroft said six years later his father committed suicide. "I would say over the years his depression got worse because he wasn't watching me play football," he said.

He said that although he was in the public eye he should have had the right to a private life.

Earlier, Mary-Ellen Field, a former business adviser to supermodel Elle Macpherson, addressed the inquiry.

Ms Field said that she and Ms Macpherson had once enjoyed a "thriving business relationship" and that the model shared with her confidences that "you wouldn't normally expect a client to confide about".

Elle Macpherson told Mary-Ellen Field she knew what it was like to ''be an alcoholic''

She said Ms Macpherson had begun discussing a relationship breakdown with her in October 2003 but swore her to secrecy.

She said "tittle-tattle" about Ms Macpherson started appearing in the media in 2005. Ms Field said her client was concerned about listening devices in her home and had her house swept.

Later, Ms Field said that Ms Macpherson suddenly accused her of talking to the press without her permission. Ms Field said she had not been speaking to the media about Ms Macpherson. "Until this year I'd probably met four journalists in my entire life."

Subsequently, Ms Field said she was told she was going to be fired unless she attended a meeting and agreed to go to a rehabilitation centre for alleged alcoholism. Asked if she was in fact alcoholic, she told the inquiry she was not.

"Unless I came to this meeting and agreed to do what I was told to do I would be fired. I thought they were all mad."

She told the inquiry that Elle Macpherson told her she knew she would never have spoken to the media "were it not for my 'alcoholism'".

Ms Field said she had a disabled child and needed to work. "I know I'm an idiot but I gave in. I went to this horrible place."

The staff at the centre later told her husband that she was not an alcoholic and that she had been bullied and was stressed, Ms Field said.

However, when Ms Field returned from rehabilitation Ms Macpherson still fired her from her account, the inquiry heard.

On 10 March 2006, Ms Field was made redundant by her employer, Chiltern.

When a lawyer tipped her off that Elle Macpherson could have had her phone hacked by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and former News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman, Ms Field said she decided to write to police but received no immediate reply.

The mother of Diane Watson, a 16-year-old who was fatally stabbed at her Glasgow school in 1991, also gave evidence to the inquiry.

Lord Justice Leveson is looking at the "culture, practices and ethics of the media", at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, and whether the self-regulation of the press works.

A second phase of the inquiry will commence after the conclusion of a police investigation into NoW phone hacking and any resultant prosecutions. It will examine the extent of unlawful conduct by the press and look at the police's initial hacking investigation.

More on This Story

The Leveson report

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