Former journalist says colleagues at Mirror Group newspaper hacked phones
A FORMER journalist at the national tabloid newspaper The People has claimed phone hacking was rife among his colleagues and was covered by up senior executives.
David Brown said journalists on the Sunday title, owned by the Trinity Mirror, regularly targeted celebrities in an effort to discover their latest partners.
The veteran reporter alleged TV presenters Ulrika Jonsson and Noel Edmonds, as well as soap stars Jessie Wallace and Tina O'Brien, were among victims of phone hacking by the paper in the years up to 2006.
Trinity Mirror, which also owns the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Daily Record, has always denied any accusations of hacking by its journalists.
In a witness statement intended to be used in evidence at an employment tribunal in 2007, Mr Brown said: “A number of the methods used to pry into individuals' lives were illegal and I have little doubt that if these people knew they had been spied upon, they would take legal action for breach of their right to privacy.
“I was sent to Sweden to doorstep and confront a British man living in Stockholm after being told he had been in mobile phone contact with the TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson on the basis of information being gleaned from her mobile phone.
“This was done by 'screwing' or tapping Ms Jonsson's phone's message bank.”
Mr Brown also claimed that colleagues had hacked the mobile phone of David Beckham's children's nanny Abbie Gibson and discovered the footballer had left angry messages on it.
The newspaper ran a front-page story headlined “Beckham's Hate Calls to Nanny”, with two more pages of details inside.
The People quickly published an apology to the Beckham’s and Trinity Mirror paid the family compensation.
Mr Brown said in his statement, which has since been leaked: “It took the company less than a month to pay David Beckham substantial damages because it knew it could not produce the evidence of tapped mobile phones in any litigation.”
Mr Brown was fired from the People in April 2006 for gross misconduct in relation to allegedly paying for stories due to be published in its sister title the Daily Mirror.
He later claimed unfair dismissal and wrote the statement in 2007 for use in an employment tribunal against Trinity Mirror.
But the statement was never used as the company settled out of court with Mr Brown and he signed a confidential settlement agreement, preventing him from discussing the matter further.
It is understood Trinity Mirror settled with Brown for sum of about £20,000.
The Fleet Street hacking scandal emerged after the arrest of the News Of The World's royal editor Clive Goodman on August 8, 2006.
According to Mr Brown, on the same day a senior human resources figure “contacted executives on Trinity's national titles to tell them that if they were asked by other newspapers or trade publications whether they had used information from 'screwed' mobile phones they should deny it.
“(The) advice indicates that a major media plc was not only allowing its staff to carry out illegal activity by, at best, turning a blind eye to it, but also taking part in an organised cover-up of that activity.”
A spokesman for Trinity Mirror said yesterday: “These are unsubstantiated allegations. All our journalists work within the criminal law and the Press Complaints Commission's Code of Conduct. We have seen no evidence to suggest otherwise.”
News of Mr Brown's allegations come as it emerged that Shaun Russell, the father of hammer attack victim Josie Russell, is to sue News International for allegedly hacking his phone.