UK

Mirror hacking left Paul Gascoigne 'scared' to use phone

Paul Gascoigne Image copyright PA
Image caption Paul Gascoigne said journalists at Mirror Group Newspapers "ruined" his life

Former footballer Paul Gascoigne has told the High Court he was "scared to speak to anybody" by phone during the 10 years his voicemail was hacked by Mirror Group journalists.

The former England international, 47, said the journalists had "ruined his life".

He said he had known his phone had been hacked but no-one had believed him.

Describing the experience as "horrendous", Mr Gascoigne linked the phone hacking with his alcoholism.

The former Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Everton footballer is complaining about 18 articles, all accepted to have been the product of illegal activity.

'I'm disgusted'

Mr Gascoigne told the court he would often change his phone number "several times a month" because he knew his phone was being hacked.

But his family had not believed his phone was being hacked, he said, while his therapist had told him he was "paranoid" and "going through a mental disorder".

His voice hoarse and shaking with emotion, he said: "I knew I was getting hacked by the Mirror.

"This continued for ages. Phone calls to my father and family were getting blocked so I changed my mobile.

"It happened again so I kept on changing mobiles, five or six times a month."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Paul Gascoigne said he wrongly accused people of leaking stories about him while he played for Everton

Mr Gascoigne said the experience of being the victim of phone hacking had been "so scary".

He said: "I was scared to speak to anybody... my parents, my family and kids, it was just horrendous.

"And people can't understand why I became an alcoholic."

After speaking briefly, Mr Gascoigne was told he would not face cross-examination by Matthew Nicklin QC, for Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), and his evidence was going unchallenged.

He replied: "I have waited 15 years to be sat here so I am disgusted, really.

"I would like to trade my mobile phone in for a coffin because these guys have ruined my life. I have no life."

'Obsessed'

In a written statement supplied to the court, Mr Gascoigne said constant media pressure had made it very difficult for him to lead a normal and private life and had led to his family not being as close as they once were.

He said he had suffered from alcohol dependency over a number of years and had also had treatment for drug use and addiction to the drink Red Bull.

Between 2000 and 2006 he had wrongly accused people close to him, such as his stepdaughter Bianca, of going to the newspapers with stories about him, he said.

"I became obsessed about being monitored. I felt that I was being watched or listened into all the time for years and the pressure on me because of that was more than I think any sane person could bear," he said.

'Psychological abuse'

Former EastEnders actress Lucy Taggart, previously known as Lucy Benjamin, followed Mr Gascoigne into the witness box and described the effect the publication of a string of articles had had on her.

Her voice breaking, she said: "With each one I always felt like I had to pick myself up and dust myself off and carry on.

"But on the following day or following week there would be another article about something else and it felt like I was being punched and battered and bruised.

"It felt I was in a boxing ring without any gloves."

When phone hacking appeared in the news, Ms Taggart said she "knew it was the Mirror that had done it".

Image copyright Neil Mockford
Image caption MGN accepted it had published 17 articles as a result of hacking the voicemail of ex-EastEnders actress Lucy Taggart

She said: "The Mirror were the worst culprit as far as I was concerned.

"The Mirror wrote the dirtiest stories and I always felt like the articles were a personal attack."

She added: "I feel like the people who worked at the paper were sadistic and their mission was to destroy people's lives."

MGN has admitted publishing 17 articles about Ms Taggart between 2000 and 2006 as a result of phone hacking.

Ms Taggart said she believed MGN had "slaughtered" her over the seven years she was targeted, describing the extent of the intrusion as "nothing short of psychological abuse".

The hearing at the High Court in London is considering what compensation should be paid by MGN to BBC creative director Alan Yentob, soap stars Shane Richie, Shobna Gulati and Lucy Taggart, 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 court has previously heard phone hacking at the newspaper group was on an "industrial scale".

MGN said the hacking was carried out by a "trusted inner circle".

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