Kate McCann was left feeling “mentally raped” after the News of the
World published the private diary she had been keeping for her missing
daughter, the Leveson inquiry into press standards heard yesterday.
Kate McCann and her missing daughter Madeleine Photo: Carl Court/AFP/Getty
The journal she kept after three-year-old Madeleine disappeared from a
holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007 was so confidential that even her
husband had not read it. The diary was seized by the Portuguese police
as part of their investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine, but
the inquiry was told that in September 2008 the News of the World
published the journal under the headline: “Kate’s Diary: In Her Own
David Sherborne, the lawyer representing the McCanns along with 50 other
victims of alleged press intrusion, said the experience left the family
“How did the News of the World get this from the police? We may never
know now,” he said. “The publication of this material with a picture on
the front page suggesting she had provided this herself left her feeling
mentally raped, her husband says, and is it any wonder?”
the third day of the public inquiry, Mr Sherborne made a searing attack
on the tabloid press in Britain. He told the inquiry that phone hacking
at the News of the World was more like an “industrial revolution” than
the “cottage industry” that had been suggested previously by Robert Jay
QC, counsel for the inquiry.
But he said the hearings were about more than just the illegal
interception of voicemails. He said his clients would paint a vivid
picture of the “despicable” actions of some tabloid journalists, which
led to a breakdown in the trust between the press and the public.
Bob and Sally Dowler
The first witnesses who will appear before the inquiry panel on Monday
will be the parents of Milly Dowler, the 13 year-old murder victim.
Sherborne said Bob and Sally Dowler would set out how the “despicable”
actions of journalists at the News of the World raised their hopes that
their daughter might have still been alive.
They are expected to describe the “euphoria” they felt when, after days
of trying, they finally got through to their missing daughter’s
voicemail and realised some of her messages had been deleted.
For a brief period they believed Milly, who disappeared in March 2002,
was still alive.
But the messages had been deleted by Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective
working for the News of the World. “Perhaps there are no words which can
adequately describe how despicable this act was, but the Dowler story is
just one of those you will hear,” said Mr Sherborne.
The parents were also subjected to “appalling intrusion” into their
grief when they were photographed attempting to trace Milly’s final
“It was a very private moment, something the couple had decided to do
between themselves to try to come to terms with their teenage daughter’s
disappearance,” said Mr Sherborne.
“But their moment of grief was obviously a photo opportunity too good to
resist. Somehow the press found out that they were undertaking that walk
on that particular day and that particular time.
“First stolen voicemail messages. Why not then steal these precious
moments too? Ethically, what’s the difference?”
Among the other witnesses the inquiry will hear from will be Sara Payne,
whose eight-year-old daughter, Sarah, was murdered in 2000.
Sherborne said Ms Payne led the News of the World’s long-running
campaign to introduce anti-paedophile legislation known as Sarah’s law,
but it emerged that the phone given to her by the newspaper had probably
been hacked by Mulcaire.
“This was a sickening postscript, perhaps a new low amongst a wealth of
lows, for a newspaper whose former glory has been so fatally befouled by
its cultural dependency, it seems, on the dark arts, which sadly give
journalism and journalists a bad name,” he said.
The Leveson inquiry will also take submissions from Chris Jefferies, 65,
the retired English teacher who was arrested last year after being
wrongly suspected of involvement in the murder of his tenant, Joanna
Yeates, in Bristol.
“It took the tabloid newspapers only a matter of moments to destroy his
reputation,” said Mr Sherborne. “Mr Jefferies is an example to us all
that this could happen to any one of us, celebrity or not. It was a
devastating destruction of all aspects of Mr Jefferies’s life, from the
professional to the most deeply personal.”
The Harry Potter author, JK Rowling, is expected to describe to the
inquiry her battle for privacy.
“The family have still photographers and press camped outside her house.
Her young children have had notes placed in their school bag,” said Mr
“Pictures of them have been snatched whilst they’ve been enjoying time
on holiday. She will explain the very real corrosive effect that this
has had on her children.”
Sherborne said Charlotte Church, the singer, would explain how her life
had been blighted by the tabloid press and particularly the News of the
The inquiry is expected to hear how a story in 2005 detailed an affair
her stepfather had been having, which had an “absolutely devastating”
effect on her mother, Maria. He said the story had been obtained through
phone hacking and shortly before it was published Miss Church’s mother
had attempted suicide.
Sherborne went on: “In an act of great sensitivity, as Ms Church will
explain, following the article published, the newspaper approached her
mother and persuaded her to give them an exclusive, despite her fragile
condition, as part of a Faustian pact that in return they would not run
a lurid follow-up story about her husband’s affair.”
Hugh Grant, the actor, is expected to tell the inquiry how Tinglan Hong,
his former girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, has been subjected
to harassment from photographers.
Sherborne suggested that the reason was because Mr Grant had been a
leading light in the campaign to expose the extent of hacking. She said
someone had obtained her number and made a series of phone calls from a
withheld number one evening when Mr Grant was on television talking
about the closure of the News of the World, Rupert Murdoch and press
Sherborne said: “When she finally answered she was threatened in the
most menacing terms, which should reverberate around this inquiry: “Tell
Hugh Grant he must shut the ---- up.”
The hearing continues.