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Hacking Trial: Paul Whitehouse’s Ex ‘Targeted’ By Mirror Papers After Cancer Diagnosis

The comedian Paul Whitehouse‘s ex-wife testified before the High Court that dealing with ovarian cancer while being the victim of tabloid attacks made recovery more difficult.

According to Fiona Wightman, Mirror Group Newspapers “door-stepped” her and hacked her phone in the 1990s.

The publisher immediately apologized for trying to get her medical information by hiring a private investigator.

Much of the privacy claim MGN brought up with Prince Harry is being disputed by MGN.

According to the company’s attorney Andrew Green KC, there is no witness testimony, documentation, call data, or numbers in journalists’ contact books to support any claims that the journalists employed phone hacking to target Mr Whitehouse and his then-wife.

Occasionally breaking down in tears, Ms Wightman testified before the court that after receiving her cancer diagnosis in 1997, she received numerous visits from journalists who were eager to hear “her story” about the disease.

She mentioned that one of them was Dominic Mohan, the showbiz editor for the Sun tabloid. It didn’t seem particularly showbiz to her, she admitted.

She stated that “to think it is acceptable to look at a woman’s gynaecological cancer and try to find a way to make it public is utterly beyond the pale” in a witness statement that was made public on Wednesday.

While Mr Mohan was employed by News Group Newspapers, owned by Rupert Murdoch, Fiona Wightman claims that Mirror Group Newspapers also singled her out.

Earlier, Ms Wightman’s attorney, David Sherborne, spent hours laying out her allegations that Mirror group journalists with a history of hacking phones and hiring private investigators attempted to learn more about her and Paul Whitehouse, a comedian best known in the 1990s for his comedy sketches on The Fast Show.

MGN has acknowledged paying Christine Hart to act as a “blagger” to try and learn more about her health.

Ms Wightman detailed in her statement receiving a call from the secretary of her surgeon who had been contacted by a person claiming to be from Stanmore Orthopaedic Hospital and asking for information regarding her treatment.

“I haven’t told them because one, I wanted to call you to check you’re OK, and two because it seemed fishy,” she said the secretary told her.

Despite the failure of the “blagging” attempt, Andrew Green KC, representing MGN, apologized in court on Wednesday, stating, “It shouldn’t have happened, it did, and it won’t happen again.”

Ms Wightman claimed that as she started to make efforts to recover from cancer, the media started to focus on her.

“I felt under huge pressure at the point I was being asked to discuss something so personal,” she told the court.

“I truly believed it prolonged the time I took to recover. I was anxious, I was on edge, my confidence was at an all-time low.”

When she split from Mr Whitehouse in 2000, who had an affair with a costume designer he had been working with, Ms Wightman once more became the topic of tabloid headlines.

She said that reporters and private investigators listened to her mobile voicemails to and from Mr Whitehouse.

Despite their breakup, they remained friends with their shared children and continued to leave each other voicemails, which she claims media and private investigators listened to.

She stated in her testimony that the prognosis for ovarian cancer at the time was terrible and that she got the disease when she was young. My infertility was a problem.

“My husband had an affair. It sounds like a tragedy. I am not a tragedy, but I was dealing with such incredibly difficult, painful things.”

“For someone to have listened to my messages and thought ‘there is a great story here’ is just awful.”

The Mirror papers never published a story about Ms Wightman’s cancer, but they did write about Paul Whitehouse’s affair.

Concluding her evidence, Ms Wightman said she had been “really anxious” about giving evidence.

She said: “I’ve had to discuss some of the most personal things I have had to go through. Most difficult times in my life. The most challenging times. Ironically, it can now be reported. At the time, I chose not to discuss any of it.”

In his statement, Mr Whitehouse, who currently stars in BBC Two series Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, said: “It is called a private life for a reason.”

“MGN’s journalists overstepped the mark. And it was not just my life they were investigating, it was Fiona’s, our daughters’ and her parents’ lives.

“It makes us both feel very angry and there was zero reason for them to get involved,” he added.

Three test cases in this legal action, including many other well-known people who are also ready to sue MGM, have been selected, with Ms Wightman’s claims being one of them.

MGN issued an apology in 2015 for employing “unlawful information gathering” methods, however, the majority of Ms Wightman’s allegations are untrue.

It said that media were paying for searches on the Electoral Roll and refuted her claim that private investigators were getting access to credit agencies to collect her personal information.

The publisher also claims that because she did not file a lawsuit at the time, her case should be dismissed. Typically, victims of privacy violations have six years to file a lawsuit.

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