The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • MS HEATHER ANNE MILLS (affirmed).

  • Thank you very much, Ms Mills. Make yourself comfortable, please. You've given us your full name. You've also provided the Inquiry very helpfully with two witness statements. The first is dated 20 January of this year, the second is dated 6 February, and the second statement contains an exhibit, which is there for background, as you've told me beforehand, and also a DVD which we're going to look at in a moment. But this is your formal evidence to the Inquiry; is that right?

  • May I deal first of all, Ms Mills, with the voicemail issue which is the subject matter of your first statement? You give us the context and background at paragraph 4 of your first statement, which is in early 2001 you were on holiday with your then boyfriend, Sir Paul McCartney, in India. There was an earthquake in Gujarat on 26 January 2001. Hearing of the plight of the victims, and particularly those who had lost limbs, you explained to Sir Paul McCartney that you very much wanted to help. You'd previously been involved in the distribution of over 27,000 limbs for amputees in former Yugoslavia and you were obviously in a position to help on this occasion.

    Paragraph 6, could you help us with that, please? You made contact with the then editor of Hello magazine, who was Mr Phil Hall, who was previously, I believe, the editor of the News of the World. When was that, approximately?

  • It was pretty soon after I got back from Gujarat -- from India, and heard the news of the Gujarat earthquake disaster, and as you said, with my previous experience helping new amputees psychologically and physically with having the limb, I'd had a relationship with Hello! magazine that every time we did a story, they would send a donation to a charity about my charity work. So I didn't know the editor or hadn't met him before, and contacted them and they said his name was Phil Hall. So I went for a meeting with him and he said that they would be happy to make a donation to the chosen charity, which was the Lions Club, in Gujarat, and Lions Club is an internationally known charity, and he said, "In return, we need some pictures on your visit and I will send along a photographer called Ken Lennox", so they offered a substantial figure for the charity, and I started to investigate what exactly was needed, medical equipment and prosthetic components, and then I said to my then partner that I would be going back. He wasn't happy about this, and we got into an argument, and I had to leave the house, so I went to stay at a friend's house in Middlesex, and turned my phone off, because he kept calling all the time and it was very stressful.

    In the morning, when I woke up, there were many messages, but they were all saved messages, which I didn't quite understand, because normally they wouldn't be, but I didn't think too much of it, I thought I must have pressed a wrong button, and there were about 25 messages all asking for forgiveness of what had happened, which I won't go into, and that would I come back. One of them said, you know, "Please forgive me" and sang a little ditty on the -- of one of his songs onto the voicemail.

  • So that afternoon I went back and all was forgiven.

  • Can I be clear, Ms Mills. What sort of phone are we talking about here?

  • A mobile phone, probably Vodafone. I've had a number of phones since then, but usually stick with Vodafone, or most recently O2.

  • Did you make any recording of any of those messages?

  • No. No. They were deleted. Pretty much straight away.

  • So in point of time, we're probably talking, is this right, end of January or February 2001; is that correct?

  • Can I ask you to look at paragraph 13 of your first statement.

  • Later that day -- that's the day of you returning -- you received a phone call from a former employee of the Trinity Mirror Group, but what did he or she say?

  • He said it was -- it was a former employee that I had had a number of conversations with over several years prior to meeting my then boyfriend, so when he called it wasn't a surprise because every time I'd done a charity event, they'd promoted it positively prior to me meeting my ex-husband, and he said, "Look, Heather, you know, we've heard that you and Paul have had an argument and I've just heard a message of him singing on the phone to you asking for forgiveness", and I said, "There is no way that you could know that unless you've been listening to my messages", and he laughed, and I said, "I promise you, if you report this story, even though it's true, you've obtained the information illegally and I will do something about it", and he never reported the story.

  • Thank you. The individual concerned we cannot name because of ongoing police investigation. I'm asked to make it clear, and therefore I do, that the individual, a former employee of the Trinity Mirror Group, was not a Daily Mirror journalist or anybody working under the supervision of Mr Morgan.

    But it's clear from paragraph 14 that no story was published at that time. Can I move forward to paragraph 15 of your first statement, that on 19 October 2006 -- so now we are several years later -- Mr Morgan published in the Daily Mail an article with the headline "I'm sorry, Macca, for introducing you to this monster."

    The article chronicled Mr Morgan's claimed involvement in introducing you to Paul, and no doubt there are matters in this article with which you strongly disagree; is that right?

  • Yes. First of all, on the lighter note, he never introduced me to Paul. I never actually spoke to Paul at the Mirror awards event. Paul left a number of messages on my machine, and pursued me for three months, so Mr Morgan had absolutely nothing to do with the introduction.

  • Thank you. There are other things no doubt in the article which you could deal with, but I'm going to move on to paragraph 16, to the voicemail issue. In the middle of that article, he writes:

    "Stories soon emerged that the marriage was in trouble. At one stage I was played a tape of a message Paul had left for Heather on her mobile phone."

    Then you say you weren't aware of this article at the time -- that's in 2006.

    "I am aware from family and friends, however, that Mr Morgan has over the years written many negative articles about me. The first time in fact that I came to be aware of this particular article relating to the voicemail was in 2011."

  • So the questions, Ms Mills, are these: did you authorise Mr Morgan to access your voicemail?

  • Did you authorise Mr Morgan to listen to your voicemail?

  • And have you ever played to Mr Morgan or authorised him to listen to a recording of this or any other voicemail left on your messaging system?

  • I think we need to go one stage further: have you ever done that in relation to anybody?

  • Can I move forward in time from 2006 to 2010. This is paragraph 56 of your second statement, Ms Mills.

  • You were shown evidence by officers of Operation Weeting that proves that private voicemail messages of you and your sister, Fiona, were hacked into.

  • The name of the hacker has been redacted out of your statement to preserve the integrity of the police investigation. Were you shown details, however, of PIN and PUK numbers?

  • Yes. We were shown my PIN numbers, PUK numbers over three different telephones over a period of five or six years.

  • Did any of those PUK and PIN numbers relate to the Vodafone mobile phone which you were using in end of January, early February 2001?

  • I don't remember, because they only gave us them to look at and to confirm and then took it away. They wouldn't leave us with the evidence.

  • Speaking more widely, and it will be my last question on this topic: did you have any reason for sharing a voicemail message with Mr Morgan?

  • No, never. I can't quite believe that he would even try and insinuate, a man that's written nothing but awful things about me for years, would absolutely relish in telling the court if I had personally played a voicemail message to him.

  • Thank you. The rest of your first statement deals with the PCC and I'm going to come back to that, if I may, towards the end of your evidence, but I know you would like us to see a DVD, which is quite short, I've seen it myself. It's less than two and a half minutes long.

  • Which deals with your relations, if that's the right way of putting it, with paparazzi photographers. The DVD probably speaks for itself, but is there anything you want to say by way of introduction to it?

  • Yes. I was having a lot of harassment with my daughter and my family and friends from the paparazzi, and I had been assaulted by a particular paparazzi in a subway at Brighton beach and I reported it to the police and they said, "You really need to get constant harassment and constant abuse evidence", so I said, "Well, what, I have to go around with a video camera?" and they said, "Whatever it takes, because we have no strength to do anything. They can stand legally outside your door all day if it's a public footpath".

    So I then started to film absolutely everything and I have over 65 hours of abuse, harassment videos of paparazzi from all around the UK going through red lights, just awful things, like driving over payments when mothers are pushing prams, shouting abusive things, making my daughter cry, jumping all over us, so we just made a very short edit, being aware that the time you have is precious, but we have 60-odd hours of video footage if the court ever need to see that?

  • I think there's a slight error in the transcription but we'll pick it up. Thank you.

  • Just one point. Towards the start there are men with cameras around a wooden fence --

  • Yes, and it looks as if they're trying to remove one of the slatted pieces of wood. Have I correctly understood what's going on?

  • Yeah, there was a slat missing in the build-up, they were there for probably about five or six weeks daily initially and then a piece of wood was put there to give more privacy so that they couldn't see through the slat, and then I sent one of my colleagues out with a camera to go under cover and film what they were saying and what they were doing. And that you can see at the beginning of the video.

  • Thank you. Maybe we can play the videotape now, or the DVD, rather.

    (Pause).

    I think there's sound.

  • There should be sound, but it's not coming.

  • The technicians are organising the sound downstairs.

  • Can we pause it while we wait for the sound.

  • Can somebody see if we can facilitate that, please? (Pause).

    It's not just a question of turning up the volume?

  • No, sir, I can't control the sound here. They do it downstairs.

  • I'm keen to watch this and therefore I'd like them to just do a moment or so's work on the equipment to make sure it works. So I'll give everybody a break while they do that, rather than have everybody sit here.

  • (A short break)

  • The machine is now --

  • I'm very pleased to hear it.

  • (DVD played)

  • Thank you. That is edited highlights of 64 hours of material?

  • Yes, it's just quickly put together to give you an idea.

  • Thank you very much indeed. Your second statement you provided to the Inquiry primarily by way of background, but extremely useful nonetheless. You see there being, is this right, two periods, if I can so describe it: 1993, which was of course the date of your accident, and about 1999, when press coverage was generally very positive and favourable, and then 1999 onwards when it was different; is that right?

  • Yeah, I mean you should never expect to have favourable press if you're not doing something directly but it was accurate pre-1999 and then it became very inaccurate and very offensive and abusive post 1999, even though my childhood and my life and everything had been documented in a book for charity, it was hailed as "overcoming adversity" and "amazing" and "charity campaigner", and then the second I met my ex-husband, it became "one-legged bitch" and "cow" and every awful word you can think of.

  • You've provided us with 69 pages of material. I understand you don't wish us to go through it, but the material largely speaks for itself. We see some examples of apologies given by the press, although if I may say so in very small print.

  • Yes. What I've found with the press, and one journalist actually confirmed it, was that the editors believed that you would go for libel, libel would always take a year or two, and they had free rein on you in that period, and it was all about accounts. The law at the moment has a capping system, so it's rarely that they will ever pay out what they've made in their heads from the sensationalistic headlines and the photographs they have then gone on to sell and circulate around the world.

    So you would get a tiny postage stamp apology, and yet we had over 5,000 headlines, over the period of 12 years, negative. So if you went to court and sued them, you may get 100, 200,000, but that was peanuts as far as they were concerned for what they had made from those headlines.

    And then my personal view is that until there is a disincentive for them to write so many lies and untruths and abusive comments, it's going to continue, and I feel that if I was an editor and I knew that I was going to be embarrassed every week by front-page apologies, the same size as the actual headline that was written, I would make sure that the information was 100 per cent correct. So until those laws are created, it's just going to continue that they put a postage stamp apology two or three years after the lie was said, in many cases that harmed our charity, and then it's too late, the public believe the lies.

  • Have you on occasion complained to the PCC, Ms Mills?

  • And what is your general experience of the PCC insofar as one can generalise?

  • Initially, I was unaware of them and always went down the libel route, which took a long time, but it was so costly and emotional and time-consuming and for a postage stamp size apology later, after all the damage had been done. We were informed about the PCC and we got some apologies, but then they were postage stamp. Then we investigated it more and found out that the big decision-makers around it generally were editors themselves who set their own code, which just seemed absolutely ludicrous to me. I just couldn't even believe that could exist, because why would they vote against themselves?

    Sometimes the PCC would try and be as helpful as possible, and they tended to be -- I can't remember the name, was it Stephen -- yeah, Stephen Abell? He tried to, I think, be a mediator between stopping a libel case, so when they knew you were seriously going to go down the libel route, then that would push them over the edge to give you an apology, but if they thought they could get away with it, then there was absolutely no way, even though they knew it was completely inaccurate.

    I remember when the Sunday Mirror, after my Indian trip, tried to say that the money hadn't gone there and I'd kept the money, and the money didn't even cross my palm. It went directly to the charity. And Tina Weaver of the Sunday Mirror at the time called Hello! magazine, Phil Hall, before the article was printed, and actually said, "Is this true that the money has gone direct?" and he said, "Yes, absolutely, Heather had nothing to do with the finances", but she ran the story anyway, which was ridiculous, because it was a good story to doubt my charitable works by now of over 20 years.

    It's one thing and another story if you want to target somebody directly, but when you know that they are responsible for hundreds and thousands of people's lives and you are directly damaging those lives, then I think that's criminal.

  • I know you have some ideas for future regulation. You've shared one of them with us, that relates to front-page apologies, but are there any other ideas you wish to put in front of us for consideration?

  • Yeah. I have just some pointers to remind me. I think on the short-term solution, as I said, to disincentivise them and have huge penalties, not these small amounts that really don't make any difference to large organisations. The same page an apology.

    Also, the legal costs situation. Forget about the people that have the money to fight it. I set up a website called uk.com in 2007 because people were writing to me and saying, "I know how you feel, my son tried to commit suicide because the newspapers said that he'd upset a girl", "My daughter did this", really horrific things which motivated me to start this website and get more information and start investigating myself reporters who were writing horrific stories about me. I decided how would they like it if I started investigating them, and I found out a lot of things that we will be using but on the criminal side.

    What I found was that so many of these people wanted to sue the newspaper, but they had absolutely no money, and then if they did a no win no fee case, they were still going to be responsible for any costs that the court didn't insist were paid by the newspapers. So I think when somebody has won a court case outright, all the costs have to be covered, because you're never allowing somebody with no money to do a genuine CFA, a no win no fee, and it's very unfair, and there are a lot of people out there suffering who have been through horrific situations and do not have any recourse or right of reply because they don't have the finances.

    I mean, we're in a privileged position that we can fight our case. It's still emotionally draining, exhausting, time-consuming, but we have that privilege. There are hundreds and hundreds of people out there that have been through horrific situations with the press making up stories, and they have no recourse. So that's another area.

    And then I think long-term with the PCC that it needs to be absolutely 100 per cent changed and there needs to be a public body that basically is set up with respected individual members of the public who learn the rights of what the code should be, and I think it would be a matter of public duty if they wish to serve on that for a year, and then move on to another group for another year, so that nobody is accessible to be bribed or to be motivated in any way, or to be blackmailed or threatened in any way to make a decision that benefits the perpetrator, as in potentially the tabloid newspaper who wrote the horrific story about the particular person.

    So I think it needs to -- the power needs to be taken away from the editors and given to the public to decide.

  • Thank you very much.

  • Can I say one more thing?

  • Yes, of course.

  • Regarding the paparazzi, the biggest problem, having worked with the police a lot now over a number of years, is they feel helpless. They see a situation, they know there are 20 people outside your house, but they're standing on a public footpath and there's nothing they can do about it. It's quite obvious harassment and stalking, but it's a public footpath and because they have a camera they're allowed to stand there.

    I feel that if all photographers, paparazzi, whatever you want to call them, are licensed and that no newspaper can use a photograph unless it's from a licensed photographer who has been given all the rules and regulations and codes and, you know, not harassing, and then they can basically be struck off should they cross the line in that area, and it means it's regulated in a proper way. As Sienna Miller said, why is it okay for her to run down a dark alleyway with 20 photographers following her? If there was 20 men without a camera chasing her, you know, that would be criminal, so why is that okay?

    So I feel that changing law is a very difficult thing, but in the short term certain things can be implemented quite quickly to stop this.

  • Thank you very much indeed, Ms Mills.

  • Sir, the next witness is Ms Stanistreet from the NUJ. I'll just let Ms Mills vacate.