The actor Sadie Frost has described how phone hacking by journalists wrecked her life, causing her to fall out with her best friend, Kate Moss, and suspect her mother of selling stories to the press.
Giving evidence at the high court in London, Frost said she became a nervous wreck and was afraid to leave the house for fear of being pursued by photographers.
“It is difficult to explain the damage this has done to me. For many years, I was in a living hell,” she said in a witness statement.
“I was suffering from depression, anxiety and regular panic attacks. I found it hard to leave the house and, if I finally made myself, I was followed … or they [the photographers] would turn up where I was going. This made my anxiety even worse.”
Frost is one of eight phone-hacking victims, including the ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, suing the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and the People publisher Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages.
Frost said she had lost three or four years of her children’s lives due to being hounded by the paparazzi every time she left the house.
Maintaining her composure in the witness box, she said in a clear voice: “I was somebody trying to pull my life back together and these articles were coming out every day, which affected my work, my family and me as a mother.
“I couldn’t take my son to the park for two years because every time I did I was photographed. He would be crying and get upset and I would have panic attacks.”
She described being ambushed by photographers as she left an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting as “the lowest of the low” and a “nightmare”, comparing it to the time a photographer turned up at her father’s funeral.
“I was so unhappy that I found it difficult to sleep and eat – and this got reported in the papers. Absolutely nothing was left alone,” she said.
“I thought it would be good for me to stop drinking, so I went to AA – and MGN published that as well. I had nowhere to turn to as the press was in every area of my life.”
Retreating into the house to escape the constant press attention, Frost said she “became what the papers were saying about me. I became a wreck”.
She said that mean-spirited articles about her in the Mirror aggravated the “torment” of not being able to trust her closest allies at her lowest moment, when her father was dying, she was going through a divorce and was suffering post-natal depression.
MGN’s apology to phone-hacking victims was described as “too little too late”. “After over six months of litigation, MGN has finally sent me an apology and published an apology in the newspaper,” she said.
“Whilst I wanted them to do this, the fact is that this is rather too little too late. I even said that I wanted an apology back in December so it is quite telling that they waited this close to trial in order to do this.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Sunday Mirror’s former in-house phone hacker revealed that he had met BBC executive Alan Yentob and ex-EastEnders actor Lucy Taggart – two of the claimants in this trial – to express his “deep, deep regret” at snooping on their voicemails.
Dan Evans, 39, was handed a 10-month suspended prison sentence last July after pleading guilty to intercepting voicemails.
He said an “inner sanctum” of senior Sunday Mirror journalists knew about phone hacking when he worked for the title from April 2003 to December 2004. “When I used the phrase inner circle, or inner sanctum, I was referring to a small group of senior journalists who taught me and tutored me in the practice of phone hacking, and who were entitled to have the entire product passed up to them.
“I passed it to them so they had overarching knowledge of voicemail interceptions.