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'I would trade phone for a coffin'


Former footballer Paul Gascoigne arrives at the High Court in London to give evidence at a hearing into phone hacking

Former footballer Paul Gascoigne arrives at the High Court in London to give evidence at a hearing into phone hacking

Former footballer Paul Gascoigne arrives at the High Court in London to give evidence at a hearing into phone hacking

Paul Gascoigne has told the High Court hacking trial that he would like to trade in his mobile phone for a coffin as he has "no life".

The 47-year-old former soccer star said he knew he was getting hacked by the Mirror.

His voice hoarse and shaking with emotion, he told Mr Justice Mann in London: "This continued for ages. Phone calls to my father and family were getting blocked so I changed my mobile. It happened again so I kept on changing mobiles, five or six times a month."

Gascoigne, who is complaining about 18 articles - all accepted to have been the product of hacking - said: "I couldn't speak to anybody, I was scared to speak to anybody - my parents, my family and kids, it was just horrendous.

"And people can't understand why I became an alcoholic."

He went on: "I was going through a bad time because I knew I was getting hacked, 110%. Of course (people) wouldn't believe it - my family and Mr McKeown (therapist Johnny McKeown).

"As I was speaking to him on the phone, it clicked again. He told me I was paranoid, I was going through a mental disorder.

"I said 'No, there's f***-all wrong with me'. I knew, I knew. I put the phone down. I've never told a lie, nothing to lie about, nothing. Disgusting. Crap."

After brief questioning by his counsel, David Sherborne, Gascoigne reacted strongly when he was told he would not face cross-examination by Matthew Nicklin QC, for Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) and his evidence was going unchallenged.

He said: "I have waited 15 years to be sat here so I am disgusted, really. I would like to trade my mobile phone in for a coffin because these guys have ruined my life. I have no life."

And as left the building he told reporters: "They bottled it."

His evidence came during a hearing to determine what compensation should be paid in eight representative cases - the others involve TV executive Alan Yentob, actress Sadie Frost, soap stars Shobna Gulati, Lucy Taggart and Shane Richie, flight attendant Lauren Alcorn and TV producer Robert Ashworth.

Mr Sherborne has described hacking as rife at all three of the group's national titles by mid-1999.

In his written statement, Gascoigne said that he suffered from alcohol dependency over a number of years and also had treatment for drug use and addiction to the drink Red Bull.

"I have suffered from mental illness, including paranoia, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. I am bipolar and I have an addictive personality.

The period between 2000 and 2006 was very difficult, mentally and physically, and he wrongly accused people close to him, such as his stepdaughter Bianca, of going to the newspapers with stories about him.

"I became obsessed about being monitored. I felt that I was being watched or listened in to all the time for years and the pressure on me because of that was more than I think any sane person could bear."

While he was at Everton in October 2000, he felt as if his life was falling apart and went to stay at the Priory in the early hours as he needed to get help very quickly.

"The main reason why I had to go to get help at the Priory on this occasion was the constant pressure from the media, including articles and threats of articles being published by journalists.

"I was also convinced that my phone was being tapped to get stories about me that very few people knew about. I felt very paranoid at that time about being pursued by the media.

"I felt that I could not cope with the media attention any more and I seriously thought about jumping in front of a train."

He said that the level of surveillance he was under, including being followed by private investigators, made him feel sick.

"Whilst it is well-known that I have an alcohol problem, it is not illegal for me to drink alcohol. I believe that it is none of Mirror Group's business if I was or wasn't drinking.

"They shouldn't have been employing people to secretly follow me - and my friends and family that I met with at that time - and photograph me.

"Obviously, if I choose to go to a public bar or restaurant then I might be recognised by other people, but that is completely different from being deliberately followed and secretly photographed by Mirror Group.

"Just because I am well-known does not mean that I'm no longer entitled to a private life, even when I am doing things in public. I must be allowed to have some privacy even when I'm not in my own home. I can't spend my life locked away indoors."

In early 2006, his suspicions caused him to spend £80,000 on counter-surveillance equipment.

Gascoigne said that he blamed his family for what he thought were leaks and did not speak to them for almost two years - refusing to go for Christmas with them - because he thought they had betrayed him.

The stories caused very serious rows with his former wife, Sheryl, and he also fell out with his life-long friend, James "Jimmy Five Bellies" Gardner.

Actress Lucy Taggart followed Gascoigne in to the witness box and described the effect which publication of a string of articles had on her.

Her voice breaking she said: "With each one I always felt like I had to pick myself up and dust myself off and carry on.

"But on the following day or following week there would be another article about something else and it felt like I was being punched and battered and bruised.

"It felt I was in a boxing ring without any gloves."

She added: "As soon as I heard about phone hacking on the news, I knew it was the Mirror that had done it. The Mirror were the worst culprit as far as I was concerned. The Mirror wrote the dirtiest stories and I always felt like the articles were a personal attack."

She added: "I feel like the people who worked at the paper were sadistic and their mission was to destroy people's lives."

She believed she had been "slaughtered" over the seven years she was targeted. The extent of the intrusion and the admitted 17 articles it produced was "nothing short of psychological abuse".

The hearing continues tomorrow when the court will hear from former MGN journalist Dan Evans. Actress Sadie Frost is expected to give evidence either tomorrow or Friday.