Celebrity ex-wife Heather Mills, the editor of the Daily Mail and a PR veteran all fronted up to the Levenson Inquiry on its 40th day of investigating phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

Former editor of the UK’s Daily Mirror turned US TV fame whore Piers Morgan faced up to the Levenson Inquiry in December and said that to the best of his recollection there had been no voicemail hacking at the Mirror, but admitted he had once had Heather Mills’ — former wife of Beatle Paul McCartney — voicemail played to him. But Morgan told the inquiry he “can’t discuss where that tape was played or who made it. It would compromise a source.”

Morgan also insinuated that it was Mills who played the message to him, telling the inquiry “What we know for a fact about Lady Heather Mills McCartney is that in their divorce case Paul McCartney stated as a fact that she had recorded their conversations and given them to the media.”

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But Mills fronted the inquiry yesterday and vehemently denied ever playing Morgan or anyone else her voicemail messages. “I couldn’t quite believe that he would even try to insinuate, a man that has written nothing but awful things about me for years, would relish in telling the court if I had played a voicemail message to him,” said Mills.

Mills also told of an incident when an unnamed Trinity Mirror journalist rang after her and McCartney had had a fight and said he knew that McCartney had left a voicemail singing for Mills’ forgiveness. Mills told the Levenson Inquiry: “And I said, ‘I promise you, if you report this story, even though it’s true, you’ve obtained the information illegally and I will do something about it’, and he never reported the story.”

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre also fronted the Levenson Inquiry overnight on various Daily Mail stories and was grilled about whether they had come from phone hacking. An angry Dacre told the court: “I cannot be any more unequivocal — our group did not hack phones and I rather resent your continued insinuations that we did … I am not going to speculate. I am not going to be drawn by your innuendo.

PR veteran Max Clifford explained to the inquiry how he had a deal worth a million pounds with ex NotW editor Rebekah Brooks to provide story tips to the paper. But he said phone hacking didn’t seem widespread: “Methods became more and more creative … In my view that was what was going on … a tiny minority, a cancer that now hopefully has been cut out.”

But he also noted that dirty gossip sells papers. “Some of the most successful papers are the most savage. People prefer to read nasty things about others than to read nice things,” said Clifford.

Meanwhile, more settlements were paid to victims of the phone hacking scandal overnight. Of the first lot of settlements only ten were left, as of yesterday nine have now been settled — with Welsh singer Charlotte Church the last to reach agreement.

However six more people have just filed cases, and another 50 are on the way, reports The New York Times.

Comedian Steve Coogan walked away with 40,000 pounds and English football player Paul Gascoigne received 68,000 pounds after stories that came from phone hacking nearly led him to a mental breakdown.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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