Piers Morgan has repeatedly claimed—falsely!—that he never countenanced or encountered voicemail hacking during his tenure as editor of the Daily Mirror. Now Heather Mills has come forward to claim that a reporter for the Mirror's parent company confessed to her in 2001 that the paper had surreptitiously gained access to a voicemail message Paul McCartney left for her after the couple had a fight. The trouble for Morgan is that he openly admitted to having listened to that very voicemail message—recounting it in detail—in 2007. Whoops.
Mills told the BBC's Newsnight that in 2001—while Morgan was the editor of the Daily Mirror—a "senior reporter for the Mirror Group," which owns the paper, admitted to her that he had hacked into her voicemail.
Ms. Mills told Newsnight that in early 2001 she had a row with her then-boyfriend Sir Paul McCartney who later left a conciliatory message on her voicemail while she was away in India.
According to Ms. Mills, afterwards a senior Mirror Group Newspapers journalist rang her and "started quoting verbatim the messages from my machine".
Ms. Mills said she challenged the journalist saying: "You've obviously hacked my phone and if you do anything with this story... I'll go to the police."
She said they responded: "OK, OK, yeah we did hear it on your voice messages, I won't run it."
Mills told the BBC that the reporter in question wasn't Morgan. And since the Mirror Group owns several newspapers other than the Daily Mirror, it's not clear that it was one of Morgan's reporters doing the hacking. But it's abundantly clear that Morgan listened in on the voicemail in question, with glee. Here he is gloating about it an a 2007 essay:
[A]t one stage I was played a tape of a message Paul had left for Heather on her mobile phone.
It was heartbreaking. The couple had clearly had a tiff, Heather had fled to India, and Paul was pleading with her to come back. He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang 'We Can Work It Out' into the answerphone.
"There was absolutely no honest way that Piers Morgan could have obtained that tape that he has so proudly bragged about unless they had gone into my voice messages," Mills told the BBC.
So: A reporter working for Morgan's parent company—and maybe even for Morgan's paper—admitted to Mills that he'd hacked into her voicemail and then played that self-same voicemail for Morgan. Add that to the voluminous and ever-increasing evidence of the Daily Mirror's involvement in the hacking scandal—including a pending lawsuit from a former member of Parliament, an on-the-record accusation from a former Mirror reporter, and secret recordings of a Mirror reporter telling a private investigator the paper had hired that what they were doing was illegal, among other things—and it's plainly obvious that Morgan's claim to have "never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone" is a narrowly constructed dodge designed to obscure the plain fact that he was up to his knees in it.
Meghan McPartland, a CNN spokeswoman, said a statement from Morgan is forthcoming. When I indicated to her via e-mail that Morgan had "written in the past about listening into [Mills'] voicemail," McPartland replied: "No, he never wrote about listening to anyone's voicemail. He said he was played a tape." So be prepared for some epic parsing.
UPDATE: Here is Morgan's statement, in which he first casts doubt on whether Mills' conversation with the reporter ever happened, and then immediately claims that the reporter "she may or may not have" spoken to didn't work at the Daily Mirror. If he in fact exists. Parsing!
Heather Mills has made unsubstantiated claims about a conversation she may or may not have had with a senior executive from a Trinity Mirror newspaper in 2001.
The BBC has confirmed to me that this executive was not employed by the Daily Mirror.
I have no knowledge of any conversation any executive from other newspapers at Trinity Mirror may or may not have had with Heather Mills.
What I can say and have knowledge of is that Sir Paul McCartney asserted that Heather Mills illegally intercepted his telephones, and leaked confidential material to the media. This is well documented, and was stated in their divorce case. Further, in his judgment, The Honourable Mr. Justice Bennett wrote of Heather Mills: "I am driven to the conclusion that much of her evidence, both written and oral, was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid. Overall she was a less than impressive witness."
No doubt everyone will take this and other instances of somewhat extravagant claims by Ms Mills into account in assessing what credibility and platform her assertions are given.
And to reiterate, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone.
[Photo via Getty Images]