Halloween phone hacking apologies extend Murdoch’s nightmare on Fleet Street

  • HORROR for Rupert Murdoch as his newspapers apologise yet again to hacking victims
  • CORRIE star Cotton, actor Womack, and TV producer Znak get undisclosed compensation
  • IS IT death by thousand cuts for Murdoch’s tabloids as Harry case looms?
Victims l-r Natalka Znak (c) znaktv.com, Antony Cotton and Mark Womack (c) PA images
Victims l-r Natalka Znak (c) znaktv.com, Antony Cotton and Mark Womack (c) PA images

RUPERT Murdoch’s nightmare on Fleet Street showed no sign of ending today – as his newspapers apologised at the High Court to yet more victims of phone hacking.

Soap star Antony Cotton, 44, Liverpool 1 actor Mark Womack, 58, and I’m a Celebrity… TV producer Natalka Znak also received damages from the publishers of The Sun.

Their lawyer, Duncan Lamont of Charles Russell Speechlys, said: “We are pleased that we could assist our clients in resolving their disputes with News Group Newspapers (NGN) and that the publisher has made a public apology to each of these clients”

It follows the announcement this month that Prince Harry is suing NGN – which also owned the News of the World until it closed in 2011 – for alleged phone hacking; the latest twist a scandal set to cost Murdoch an estimated £1bn in costs and compensation.

Royal Courts of Justice (inset, the Rolls Building)
Royal Courts of Justice (inset, the Rolls Building)

A packed court room number 31 at the Rolls Building in London had to wait for an extra row of seats to be brought in to accommodate some 50 members of the legal teams acting for both side in the long running litigation.

Antony Cotton – who brought his action under his real name Antony Dunn – is best known as Shaun Tully in Coronation Street and is one of the first gay characters to appear regularly in a soap.

A spokesman for NGN apologised for the invasion of Mr Cotton’s privacy by the News of the World.

NGN said: “The Defendant acknowledges that such activity should never have taken place and that it had no right to intrude into Mr Cotton’s private life in this way.”

Mark Womack is a well-known face on the small screen, and is married to former EastEnder Samantha Janus, 46.

In November 2018, Mr Womack claimed that his voicemail messages were hacked by journalists, and that his personal information was obtained by deception by The Sun and News of the World.

As is standard in these out-of-court settlements, NGN accepted no liability for the phone hacking, but did acknowledge such activities should never have taken place.

Ms Znak is a 54-year-old TV producer, who is a controller of Factual Entertainment at ITV and has worked on Celebrity Love Island and Hell’s Kitchen.

She said was that she was targeted because she worked with high profile people such as Gordon Ramsay, Katie Price, Callum Best, and Abi Titmuss.

Her lawyers said: “In her action against the Defendant, Ms Znak alleged that she was targeted by the Defendant for the sole purpose of finding out private information for publication about her, the television programmes she produced and the individuals she worked with.”

None of the claimants was present at court to hear their apologies.

NGN is facing a series of new claims, as well as allegations of a board-level cover up of wrongdoing at the publisher – allegations it denies or refuses to admit.

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