LONDON — Actor Hugh Grant on Monday told a London courtroom about the dark side of celebrity life, describing hacked voice mails and laying blame on the entire tabloid press, not just the now-shuttered News of the World.
Grant's testimony in a media ethics inquiry capped a tough day for Britain's beleaguered press. Earlier, the parents of a murdered schoolgirl whose phone was targeted by the News of the World described how the hacking had given them false hope that their daughter was still alive.
Grant said he believes his phone was hacked by Britain's Mail on Sunday tabloid — the first time he has implicated a newspaper not owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch in the wrongdoing.
The actor said a 2007 story about his romantic life that appeared in the paper, owned by Murdoch rival Associated Newspapers Ltd., could only have been obtained through eavesdropping on his voice mails. Grant sued the newspaper for libel and won.
The Mail on Sunday said in a statement said that it "utterly refutes" Grant's suggestion it had hacked his phone.
Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry into media ethics in response to an evolving scandal over phone hacking in Britain. Murdoch shut down the discredited News of the World tabloid in July after evidence emerged indicating that it had routinely eavesdropped on the voice mails of public figures, celebrities and crime victims.
The first witnesses were the parents of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, whose mobile phone voice mails were hacked after she disappeared in 2002.
Sally Dowler told the inquiry that she believed her missing 13-year-old was still alive once she reached the girl's previously full voice mailbox. Dowler said that when she could finally leave a message on Milly's voice mail weeks after the girl disappeared, she shouted: "She's picked up the voice mails! … She's alive!"
In fact, messages had been deleted by someone working for the News of the World while the Dowlers and police were still searching for Milly, who was later found dead.
The Dowlers said they had been utterly shocked when police told them, much later, that Milly's phone had been hacked.