Mirror phone hacking 'destroyed actors' relationship'

Steve McFadden Image copyright PA
Image caption Steve McFadden said the Mirror journalists were responsible for destroying the career of his former girlfriend Lucy Benjamin, as well as their relationship

Actor Steve McFadden has described how articles published in the Mirror "destroyed" his relationship with ex-girlfriend and co-star Lucy Benjamin.

The actor, who plays Phil Mitchell in EastEnders, said the couple had hoped to marry but he thought Lucy was "giving out information".

Two other EastEnders actors did not speak for five years because of suspicions over tabloid stories.

Shane Richie said he and co-star Jessie Wallace each suspected the other.

Richie said he became good friends with the actress who plays his on-screen wife, Kat, after he joined the soap in 2002, and they would leave each other voicemail messages.

He said: "After a while, me and Jessie didn't speak for five years because she didn't trust me and I didn't trust her because we both thought we were selling each other down the river with stories, which it turned out of course wasn't true."

Image copyright Neil Mockford
Image caption Mirror Group has accepted it published 17 articles as a result of hacking the voicemail of former EastEnders actress Lucy Benjamin

Mr McFadden was called as a witness at the hearing, which will establish damages against Mirror Group for eight claimants of which his former partner, now Lucy Taggart, is one.

He told the High Court that Ms Taggart had been left "sobbing inconsolably in the foetal position" by one story in 2002.

The actor said he had been very close to proposing to his co-star "but the biggest factor that stopped me was thinking that Lucy had a big mouth".

He said: "All the articles in the Mirror's newspapers that were constantly being published about us made me suspect Lucy.

"I thought she was shouting her mouth off. Now of course I know it was nothing like this and it was the Mirror's journalists stealing information from our phones.

"Apart from our relationship, the Mirror articles also had a really profound effect on Lucy's career and how she felt as a person."

He said she believed they were responsible "for putting her out of work and making her unemployable, and I think she was right".

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

Image caption Shane Richie revealed to the hearing that he and co-star Jessie Wallace did not speak for five years

Mr Richie, who plays Alfie Moon in the BBC soap, occasionally became emotional as he talked about the impact of phone hacking on his life,

He said one of his colleagues on EastEnders had warned others on the set: "Don't say anything to Shane Richie because he's 'gobby', he talks to the press".

Mr Richie said he felt "really let down" by the revelations and said the hacking had caused lasting damage to his relationship with friends and family.

In 2003 journalists were questioning him about debt problems, caused by his investment in a film, and he was worried his wife Christie might find out.

At one point he asked Christie if her mother had been talking to the press, which led to strained relations with his mother-in-law.

The 50-year-old actor said that it sickened him "to the core" that journalists had listened to intimate voicemails left for him by his wife and children.

MGN has acknowledged that hacking was used for 12 stories it published about Mr Richie between 2003 and 2005.

'Naive and vulnerable'

Earlier, Premiership footballer Rio Ferdinand's ex-girlfriend broke down in tears during the hearing.

Flight attendant Lauren Alcorn had a relationship with Mr Ferdinand, the QPR, and former Manchester United and England star, for several years from 2002.

Ms Alcorn, who is on maternity leave from Virgin Airways, said she was "completely shocked and disgusted" by the activity at MGN.

Image copyright PAUL BARKER
Image caption Rio Ferdinand had a relationship with Lauren Alcorn for several years from 2002

She said: "My relationship with Rio was on and off for several years until about 2006.

"During this time, Rio also had a relationship with his now wife, who is also the mother of his children.

"Looking back on it now with the benefit of hindsight, that period represents a time in my life that I regret and am very embarrassed about.

"However, I was a young, naive and emotionally vulnerable 19-year-old who got wrapped up with a young man that I thought had feelings for me and vice versa.

"I'm a very private person and I never never wanted to be in the public eye - even walking into court today is my worst nightmare."

Drug test

Ms Alcorn said she had been quizzed about being with Mr Ferdinand the day before he missed a drugs test in 2003.

"It was even suggested I was a bad influence and I was the reason he missed the test.

"I felt completely hounded and bombarded by the questioning from complete strangers."

Ms Alcorn said her voicemail also had "such private and personal things like the death of my father."

She said: "To know that all of that was listened to is really upsetting."

MGN has acknowledged that it published three stories that appeared in the Sunday Mirror in 2003 as a result of hacking Ms Alcorn's voicemail.

'No sincerity'

MGN last month published an apology for phone hacking, saying the practice was "unlawful, unacceptable and wrong".

Asked about the apology, Ms Alcorn said: "It felt like it had no sincerity whatsoever. I wanted to rip it up and throw it in the bin".

BBC creative director Alan Yentob has told the hearing he felt "violated on a truly massive scale" by journalists who hacked his phone, while the former Coronation Street star Shobna Gulati said her son was bullied at school because of stories MGN published.

Cases from actress Sadie Frost, former footballer Paul Gascoigne and TV producer Robert Ashworth, former husband of Coronation Street actress Tracy Shaw, are also being considered.

The case continues.

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