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Leveson day two: Steve Coogan claims News of the World writer 'tricked' him on affair

The Leveson inquiry today also heard evidence from a former advisor to supermodel Elle Macpherson and the parents of a boy who say he took his life after upsetting media coverage of his sister’s death.

Comedian and actor Steve Coogan arriving to give evidence today.
Comedian and actor Steve Coogan arriving to give evidence today.
Image: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis/PA Image

THE SECOND DAY of the Leveson inquiry has heard evidence from comedian Steve Coogan and from the parents of a boy who died by suicide after intense media coverage of the death of his sister.

The inquiry was sparked by a range of phone hacking allegations against the News of the World newspaper, which subsequently closed, and has been hearing evidence from people affected by the actions of the British press.

Margaret Watson, whose daughter was stabbed in a school playground by another pupil in 1991, said her 15-year-old son became upset with her and her husband for apparently failing to prevent upsetting articles about his deceased sister Diane appearing in the press.

She said she asked her lawyer about the situation and that he explained you could not defame a dead person. But she said to her son Alan it seemed that she and her husband were sitting back and doing nothing about the coverage.

Watson said she wanted to see libel laws extended to those who died, saying: “Just because a person’s died, their reputation shouldn’t die with them.”

Elle Macpherson

A former business advisor to supermodel Elle Macpherson told the inquiry that she lost her job after the model suspected it was she who was leaking private details about Macpherson to the press. It later emerged that the leaks were the result of phone hacking by the News of the World.

Mary-Ellen Field said that she and Macpherson had once been close, but that after private details about the model began appearing in the press in 2005, things fell apart between them.

Field also said she lost her job at an advisory firm shortly after Macpherson fired her.

Steve Coogan

Comedian and actor Steve Coogan began his testimony by saying he wasn’t the kind of celebrity who appeared on game shows or allowed the media access into his home and private life.

He claimed that former News of the World editor Andy Coulson had eavesdropped on a phone conversation he had with a woman in an effort to trick him into indiscretions.

He also said that at one time he watched someone who didn’t look much like a tramp searching through his bins.

Coogan also claimed that someone rang his late great-grandmother of his daughter claiming to be conducting a council survey. However, as the questions progressed and became more directed towards Coogan, she suspected they were a journalist and confronted them. They then apparently admitted to being a journalist from the Daily Mirror.

He also outlined a phone conversation in which he claims he was tricked by a News of the World writer into confirming details regarding an affair that led to the break-up of his marriage on the condition that “more lurid details” would be withheld. However, he says that the columnist did not adhere to their agreement, despite giving him his word.

Kate and Gerry McCann

Today’s testimonies ended 40 minutes ahead of time, prompting Judge Leveson to joke about finding ways to fill up the extra time so he wouldn’t be accused of knocking off early.

Four witnesses are scheduled to give evidence at the inquiry tomorrow, including the parents of missing child Madeleine, Kate and Gerry McCann, and Mark Lewis, a lawyer whose clients include the parents of murdered teenager Milly Dowler. The ex-wife of former footballer Paul Gascoigne is also due to address the inquiry on Wednesday.

Yesterday, it heard from its first witnesses – the Dowlers and actor Hugh Grant. Sally Dowler said that she had been given false hope her daughter was still alive during the months of her disappearance when she was finally able to leave a new voice mail message on Milly’s previously-full phone account.

The Daily Mail today criticised Grant’s claims it too was involved in hacking as “mendacious smears driven by his hated of the media”.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Read: Dowlers believed murdered daughter Milly was still alive after phone hacking >

Read: Hugh Grant names new publication in phone hacking inquiry >

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