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Paul McCartney's ex-wife makes phone-hacking claim

Heather Mills says journo admitted voicemail snoop in 2001

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The former wife of Paul McCartney has alleged that a senior journalist working at Mirror Group Newspapers intercepted voicemails left for her by the Beatles star.

Heather Mills told the BBC's Newsnight programme yesterday that the alleged phone-hacking incident took place in 2001, when Macca was her boyfriend.

She said the unnamed journalist called her quoting parts of the voicemail McCartney had left on her phone.

Mills challenged the reporter, who then – it was claimed – admitted the messages had been intercepted.

Mirror Group Newspapers, which is owned by Trinity Mirror, publishes tabloid titles in the UK that include the Daily Mrror, Sunday Mirror and People.

Mills did not reveal which newspaper's journalist had allegedly tapped into her phone, but significantly her claim highlights that phone-hacking may have taken place at publications other than just News International's now-defunct News of the World title.

The UK's most popular Sunday paper, NotW closed down last month, after it was labelled a "toxic" brand following the voicemail interception and police bribery allegations that engulfed NI and its parent company News Corp, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

McCartney's ex told Newsnight that she had argued with the former Beatle in early 2001. Later, while she was away in India, Macca left her a pacifying voicemail on her phone.

Mills claimed that, not long after, a senior Mirror Group Newspaper journo "started quoting verbatim the messages from my machine".

She told the BBC that she challenged the reporter's actions.

"You've obviously hacked my phone and if you do anything with this story... I'll go to the police."

According to Mills, the journalist said: "OK, OK, yeah we did hear it on your voice messages, I won't run it."

Mills, who was married to McCartney between 2002 and 2008, said the person who contacted her was not the former editor (1995-2004) of the Daily Mirror, Piers Morgan, who is now a TV presenter for CNN in the US.

Morgan has repeatedly denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, phone-hacking at any newspaper under the Trinity Mirror brand.

But he has acknowledged listening to a recording of the couple in an article he wrote for the Daily Mail newspaper in 2006.

"At one stage I was played a tape of a message Paul had left for Heather on her mobile phone," he wrote in the tabloid.

"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 answer phone."

Mills told the BBC that "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."

Morgan put out a statement through his current employer, CNN, yesterday in which he denied the allegation.

"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," he said.

"I have no knowledge of any conversation any executive from other newspapers at Trinity Mirror may or may not have had with Heather Mills.

"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."

Trinity Mirror separately confirmed late last month that it had opened an internal investigation into ethics and editorial procedures at its newspapers.

In a statement to the Beeb yesterday, it said: "Our position is clear. All our journalists work within the criminal law and the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] code of conduct." ®

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