Soap star tells of hacking distrust
EastEnders' Shane Richie has told the High Court that he and co-star Jessie Wallace did not speak for five years because of the atmosphere of distrust caused by phone-hacking.
The 50-year-old entertainer, who first created the role of Alfie Moon in 2002, told Mr Justice Mann in London that he quickly became pally with the actress who plays his on-screen wife, Kat, and they would leave each other many voicemails.
When private stuff started to appear in the press, they would often fall out because he thought she was leaking stories.
And people on the show would be told to be careful what they said to him because he was "gobby".
"That impacts a lot on shows like EastEnders where you are working so close. You end up just not talking to each other because you end up not trusting each other.
"After a while, me and Jessie didn't speak for five years because she didn't trust me and I didn't trust her because we both thought we were selling each other down the river with stories, which it turned out of course wasn't true."
Everyone was "pretty paranoid and suspicious of each other which was a horrible feeling", and it even got to the point where they thought their dressing rooms were bugged.
Richie was giving evidence at a hearing to decide the amount of compensation to be awarded in eight representative cases - involving himself, TV executive Alan Yentob, actress Sadie Frost, ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, soap stars Shobna Gulati, Lucy Taggart, flight attendant Lauren Alcorn and TV producer Robert Ashworth - brought against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).
Questioned today by David Sherborne, who has said that hacking was rife at all three of the group's national titles by mid-1999, Richie, who is complaining about 13 articles - 12 of them admitted to have been the product of illegal activity - said that in 2003 MGN journalists were hounding him about debt problems caused by his investment in a film.
He was concerned his wife, Christie, might find out and be worried, so when MGN started publishing stories about it, it was "incredibly embarrassing and distressing".
"I'd not been with Christie that long and there I was playing Alfie Moon, supposedly on so many hundred thousands of pounds a year, which of course wasn't true, and there I was struggling to pay a mortgage..
"And I was just borrowing from the bank constantly by re-mortgaging the house. It appears that this was just one of the many areas of my private life that MGN journalists were prying into and trying to turn into stories."
He said that one story about his annoyance at his EastEnders bosses for not allowing him to do other roles outside the soap, which would have earned him some much-needed cash, could have cost him his job.
He had asked Christie if her mother had been talking to the press, which led to a falling-out with his mother-in-law for a while, and he even suspected his own mother and his long-standing manager.
At one point he got someone in to do a sweep for bugs at his home as he was so paranoid about personal information appearing in the Mirror titles.
He recalled going to places, such as a football match in Blackpool or a surprise trip to New York with Christie, and finding photographers and journalists were already there.
Mr Richie said that it sickened him "to the core" that journalists had the gall to listen to intimate voicemails left for him by his wife and children especially.
He felt let down and "done over" by newspapers with whom he had had a 30-year relationship, and their apology meant nothing to him.
Earlier, fellow EastEnder Steve McFadden, who has played the role of Phil Mitchell since 1990, told the court he believed Mirror articles "destroyed" the career of actress Lucy Taggart, who played his on-screen girlfriend Lisa, and with whom he had a relationship during the time her phone was hacked.
McFadden, 55, said he remembered her being "very upset" about stories published about her and "feeling like she was being picked on and bullied".
In a witness statement, he said they had hoped to marry, and he got "very close" to proposing, "but the biggest factor that stopped me was thinking that Lucy had a big mouth and was giving out information".
The London-born actor said: "I now know that messages I left for Lucy must have been heard by MGN's journalists. Although I find this appalling, in some senses, I am relieved to finally know why and how so much information came out about me and Lucy.
"The sad thing is that you can't turn back the clock on what I thought and accused Lucy of at the time, which was that she was betraying me."
Lauren Alcorn, ex-girlfriend of footballer Rio Ferdinand, sobbed as she described how the hacking of her voicemails had left her feeling "hounded" by the press.
Ms Alcorn, a flight attendant with Virgin Atlantic, said that Ferdinand, who she was seeing secretly as he also had a long-term lover, became increasingly suspicious that she was talking to the press and giving away intimate details of their "pretty intense" relationship.
She was "completely shocked and disgusted" by the hacking which carried on in her case from 2002 until 2006.
"I have never wanted any publicity and see myself as a private individual although I was eventually forced into the public eye because of what happened to me."
Dabbing at her eyes, she went on: "I think it's quite shocking really to see the extent of it. I'm a very private person and I never never wanted to be in the public eye. Even walking into court today is my worst nightmare."
The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow when ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne and Ms Taggart are due to give evidence.