UK

Mirror phone hacking: BBC's Yentob says he was 'violated'

Alan Yentob
Image caption TV executive Alan Yentob told the court he felt "invaded and sickened"

BBC creative director Alan Yentob has said he felt "violated on a truly massive scale" by journalists who hacked his phone.

Giving evidence to the High Court, he said he was shocked that "the entire show business desk at three newspapers was listening to my conversations".

Mr Yentob is among eight high-profile figures claiming damages from Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over hacking.

MGN has apologised, saying the practice was "unlawful, unacceptable and wrong".

'Disturbing'

Mr Yentob told the court he felt "invaded and sickened".

"It feels as if someone has been able to go in and out of my home, the most private of places, and search through my personal belongings day in, day out, helping themselves to whatever they think might be worth something," he said.

"It is extremely disturbing to think that these people knew about so many aspects of my personal and professional life and my most private of conversations.

Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Mr Yentob's phone was hacked "thousands of time" between 1999 and 2008, the High Court heard

"I had never imagined that my mobile phone was anything other than a safe and inviolate place where I could communicate with all of the people in my life.

"That feeling has been shattered."

On Wednesday, David Sherborne, who is representing Mr Yentob, said his client's voicemail was an "Aladdin's Cave" of stories for Mirror Group journalists.

'Nonsense'

Mr Yentob, who is editor and presenter of the Imagine series, "had one of the most valuable address books - it was famous", he said.

He said between 1999 and 2008, thousands of calls, some lasting five minutes, were made to Mr Yentob's phone, which were left on most of the day with messages piling up.

Mr Yentob said, at that time, he would have been in regular contact with, among others, Lady Ruth Rogers and her architect husband Richard, the then BBC director general Greg Dyke, author Salman Rushdie and Alastair Campbell at Downing Street.

He said Lady Rogers and her husband were very close friends of many years standing, and he would speak to her at least every other day.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The musician Sting and his wife Trudie Styler were among Alan Yentob's friends at the time of the alleged hacking

In 2002, he went on holiday in Italy with his family, and the Rogers family took the house next to them.

"The Rogers were not the only family with whom we spent the summer," he said.

"We were also joined by other friends such as Charles Saatchi, Nigella Lawson and Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian.

"The musician Sting and his wife Trudie Styler owned a house nearby, at which we would stay as guests."

He said journalists at the Mirror Group suspected he was having an affair with Lady Rogers, although at some point they realised that was not correct so could not publish the story.

Mr Yentob said: "That it was nonsense is true. But this in no way excuses the intrusion into our privacy.

"We never had an affair, but it does not mean that it would not have had devastating effects had the story been published."

'Inner circle'

Actors Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, entertainers Harry Enfield, Jonathan Ross, Steve Coogan, Angus Deayton and Caroline Aherne, were also among his contacts, he said.

Mr Yentob said his voicemails contained matters to do with his health, business dealings, and commercially sensitive information about the BBC.

MGN's barrister Matthew Nicklin repeated a public apology made by the company last month to "all its victims of phone hacking".

But he denied that phone hacking was carried out by "scores" of Mirror Group journalists, as the court had previously heard.

The activity was instead carried out by a "trusted inner circle", he said.

The hearing at the High Court in London is considering cases brought by Mr Yentob, soap stars Shane Richie, Shobna Gulati and Lucy Benjamin, former footballer Paul Gascoigne, actress Sadie Frost, TV producer Robert Ashworth and flight attendant Lauren Alcorn.

Seven of the claimants have referred to at least 109 published stories.

The case continues.

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