Actor Hugh Grant accused British tabloids today of hacking into his voicemail in 2007 for a story about his love life, buying his private medical records and burglarizing his apartment in an intrusive search for scoops.
The star of "Notting Hill," "Bridget Jones's Diary" and several other movies testified today at the Royal Courts of Justice that The Mail on Sunday had published a story in 2007 claiming that he was having an affair with a "plummy-voiced woman" in Los Angeles.
At the time, he was dating writer Jemima Khan. Grant said that he believed the story was based on messages left by a business associate.
"She would leave charming, joking messages. ... And she had a voice that can only be described as plummy," Grant testified. "I cannot for the life of me think of any conceivable source for this story in The Mail on Sunday except for these messages on voicemail."
He was not having an affair with the woman, he added.
Grant said he had no proof The Mail on Sunday had hacked into his voice-mail. However, Grant sued the newspaper for libel and won. It was the first time that a newspaper not owned by Rupert Murdoch has been implicated in Britain's newspaper phone hacking scandal.
Hugh Grant Says Brit Tabs Spy on Him
Grant was the first in a series of celebrity witnesses due to testify about allegedly out-of-control phone hacking and other spying techniques used by the aggressive British media. He is to be followed by actress Sienna Miller and Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling.
The scandal has resulted in the shutdown of Murdoch's News of the World newspaper, several top editors being arrested and one former editor who became an adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to resign.
Grant painted a picture of harassment by the British tabloid press dating back to 1995 after he was arrested in Los Angeles with a prostitute. He testified today that he returned to London and spent most of his time holed up in his flat with the paparazzi waiting outside.
"I'd managed to get out for the day and when I got back, the flat had been broken into. ... Nothing had been stolen. ... Two days later a detailed description of what was inside my flat appeared in a tabloid," he said today.
Asked whether he believed the break-in was orchestrated by a reporter looking for a scoop or was the work of a burglar looking to sell information, Grant said, "I think the most likely scenario is both. ... Nothing was stolen. I had been in that flat for years and it had never been broken into before and never since."
Grant accused newspapers of paying off hospital staff to leak medical information about him after Grant went to the hospital because he felt dizzy and out of breath.
"No one would expect their medical records to be made public or to be appropriated by newspapers for profit," he said.
When it was noted that no one knew the source of the story about Grant in the newspaper The Sun, Grant responded. "No, maybe it was just a lucky guess."
Earlier in the day, the parents of murdered teenager Milly Dowler told of their experiences with the tabloids during the search for their daughter in 2002. Revelations that the News of the World had hacked the missing girl's phone and had enraged the public and prompted the creation of the committee that is reviewing the journalistic practices.
The girl's parents, Sally and Bob Dowler, told the nationally televised hearing today that at one point they took a private walk to retrace their daughter's last steps. They where shocked and angered to learn later that they were secretly photographed by News of the World.
"It just felt like such an intrusion into a really, really private grief moment," she said. The couple said they later realized that their own phone, as well as their daughter's, had been hacked.