Phone hack inquiry: Hugh Grant lets rip

British actor Hugh Grant arrives to attend the Leveson Inquiry in central London. The parents of a murdered schoolgirl whose phone was hacked by the News of the World tabloid, and actor Hugh Grant give evidence on Monday. Photo / AFP
British actor Hugh Grant arrives to attend the Leveson Inquiry in central London. The parents of a murdered schoolgirl whose phone was hacked by the News of the World tabloid, and actor Hugh Grant give evidence on Monday. Photo / AFP

Hollywood star Hugh Grant has let rip at Britain's tabloid press, telling an inquiry that a burglary at his flat led to stories and that phone-hacking was used by non-Rupert Murdoch newspapers.

On a dramatic first day of evidence at Britain's phone-hacking probe, the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler also said they had thought she was still alive after Murdoch's News of the World deleted some of her messages.

Notting Hill actor Grant, 51, said Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper ran a story on his relationship with socialite Jemima Khan in 2007 that mentioned his conversations with a "plummy voiced" woman.

He said he later won damages.

"I'd love to hear what their source was if it wasn't phone hacking," Grant told the live televised hearing.

He also accused another tabloid, the Daily Mirror, of accessing his medical records.

The Mail on Sunday is owned by Associated Newspapers and the Mirror is owned by Trinity Mirror. Neither is owned by Murdoch's US-based News Corporation, where the hacking scandal first emerged in the now-defunct News of the World.

Grant, wearing a dark suit, light blue shirt and navy blue tie, added that he was suspicious after a break-in at his flat in London in 1995, shortly after he was arrested in Los Angeles with a prostitute.

He said nothing was stolen in the burglary but that a full description of the inside of the property later appeared in a newspaper, although he said he could not remember which.

The Four Weddings and a Funeral star also complained of press harassment of the mother of his first child, Chinese actress Hong Tinglan.

He said she was unable to leave the house in London for three days after the birth earlier this month because of her fears about the photographers camped outside.

"My overwhelming motive through this whole episode was to protect the mother of my child from a press storm," he said.

Hong was recently granted a High Court injunction prohibiting harassment of her and the child.

Laughter rippled through the inquiry several times during Grant's appearance, especially at first when he stumbled through the swearing of the oath, and when he revealed his middle name was "Mungo".

Prime Minister David Cameron launched the judge-led inquiry into the ethics of Britain's press in July after the full scale of hacking at the News of the World emerged, including that it had hacked Dowler's voicemails.

The scandal led to the closure of the tabloid - Britain's best-selling Sunday newspaper - and the resignations of some of Murdoch's key lieutenants, as well as two of Britain's top policemen.

The Dowlers' testimony on Monday morning was far more sombre than Grant's.

Milly's mother Sally told the inquiry that after 13-year-old Milly went missing in March 2002, she and her husband Bob initially checked her voicemails "all the time".

At first, a recorded message left by their daughter would come up, but the voicemail box soon became full and an automatic message would play instead.

But one day, Sally Dowler added, her voice rising with emotion: "I rang her phone and it went on to her voicemail. So I heard her voice, and it was just like I jumped, 'She's picked up her voicemails Bob, she's alive!"'

In fact, as well as listening to Milly's voicemails, the News of the World's private detective Glenn Mulcaire had erased some messages to make room for new ones.

Milly was abducted and murdered by British serial killer Levi Bellfield, who was convicted of her murder in June this year.

Mulcaire was jailed along with the News of the World's former royal editor Clive Goodman in January 2007 after they admitted intercepting voicemail messages left on phones belonging to royal aides.

Sally Dowler said when they were told by police earlier this year about the hacking of their daughter's phone, "literally I didn't sleep for about three nights."

The Dowlers said that for the British press and Murdoch's newspapers in particular the inquiry was an "opportunity to do things right in future and have some decent standards."

Lord Justice Brian Leveson's inquiry will hear this week from other alleged victims of media intrusion, including actress Sienna Miller, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and Gerry McCann, the father of the missing Madeleine McCann.

- AFP

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