- LONDON bombing survivor Davinia Douglass is suing Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun over alleged unlawful newsgathering
- SHE and other victims of the 7/7 atrocities were targeted by illegal private investigators, court hears
- SERVING Sun man Nick Parker allegedly had her medical records obtained by deception and church blagged for her address
- FAMILY members including Mrs Douglass’s elderly grandmother were targeted, as;
- MURDOCH lawyers try and fail to gag this website from reporting the serious allegations, which they deny
By Dan Evans
THE LONDON bombing survivor whose field-dressed face became the defining image of the 7/7 terrorist attacks has condemned The Sun over allegations it was illegally spying on her as she lay stricken in hospital after the atrocities that killed 56 people in 2005.
Davinia Douglass, who is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) for allegedly obtaining her private information by deception and voicemail hacking, says she even needed police guards to stop intrusions by journalists as she was being treated for serious facial burns.
Mrs Douglass said: “I remember feeling trapped, targeted and very overwhelmed. I cannot describe how frightening it was.”
And she added: “A couple of days later, maybe around the 9th or 10 July 2005, I learned the police were actually protecting me from the media.”
The claims, sworn in a High Court witness statement in which Mrs Douglass also alleges other 7/7 victims were targeted by The Sun, can only now be revealed because this website challenged a bid by NGN to gag us from reporting details of her case.
The Murdoch media company eventually dropped a formal application for reporting restrictions – which would have seen journalists face jail for repeating the allegations – after a tense March 24 hearing at the High Court in London.
However, we can tell how Douglass, previously known as Davinia Turrell, allegedly became a target of unlawful newsgathering “habitually” used by The Sun after being caught by chance in the Islamist plot to wreak havoc on London on July 7, 2005.
She was on her way to work as a trainee barrister in Paddington, West London, when fellow passenger Mohammad Sidique Khan blew himself up as their train pulled out of Edgware Rd station killing six people including himself.
A photograph of Douglass in a surgical face dressing being assisted by another member of the public, Paul Dadge, led The Sun to hail him a hero and dub her the “Woman in the Mask” – all while it was allegedly illegally investigating her medical records and home and family life.
Douglass told the court through her barrister David Sherborne that journalists hounded her at the burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster hospital.
She said: “I was told by [my partner] Erik that people were calling up the nurses’ station, saying they are a cousin or pretending to be hospital staff.
“It seemed to me that the media were trying everything they could to get in contact with me, even one journalist presented to be a florist and turned up.”
As part of the discovery process in her case, Douglass says she has seen 10 invoices from private investigators allegedly used to unlawfully target her by The Sun and its former stablemate The News of the World – the sister paper closed in 2011 for hacking the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
She went on: “My solicitors carried out a search of the names that feature in the invoices. A number of articles and reports have been shown to me which I exhibit to this statement.
“It is clear from these articles and search results that News Group was targeting other victims of the bombing.”
Douglass, whose mother had died of cancer just a month before the attacks, singled out one still-serving Sun journalist – Chief Foreign Correspondent Nick Parker – as key to the paper’s allegedly illegal intrusions into her medical information and the private lives of her family.
She said: “I remember The Sun being particularly awful, there was a man who called Erik on our ex−directory landline number at the time – something they couldn’t have obtained lawfully…
“Erik told me the man was very aggressive and kept saying he knew I was in there. I believe it was Nick Parker as I recall him trying to contact me on a number of occasions.”
Among the family members targeted was Douglass’s grandmother, who was in her 80s at the time.
Reflecting on the impact, Douglass said: “[She was] an old lady who had just lost my mum and then all this happened and there was no way I could protect her.”
Douglass said The Sun tried to win her over with gifts of flowers and offers of substantial cash payments in return for her story as she underwent multiple operations to restore skin burnt from the left side of her face.
She said: “I hated the attention. The flowers were nice but it didn’t feel right, it was like they were trying to soften me up so I would speak to them.”
Nick Parker, Douglass claims, was using an alleged specialist medical records “blagger” to find out about her injuries, and duped her partner’s church into disclosing address details so the couple could be secretly watched by photographers seeking lucrative images.
Barrister David Sherborne took the judge through some of the disclosed email evidence on which Douglass is relying to prove her case, which is set to be decided at trial in November this year.
Mr Sherborne said: “And the email there, which is set out in paragraph 31 is Mr Parker explaining to his boss that he had got an address for her boyfriend, and he got it by: ‘blagging the church [as he brags] nearby, where Erik was born. They said Davinia was staying with him, Pictures on their way.’
“So they send a photographer to try and capture pictures of this poor woman and her partner.”
He added: “And in response to Mr Parker’s email [his boss] Mr Young says: ‘Good work’.
“It is only fair to Ms Douglass to read out what she says: ‘I think Mr Young’s response is awful, it is disgusting.
“’What kind of good work is that? Why was The Sun taking pictures of us without our consent or even our knowledge?’”
Douglass added: “I am at a loss for words as to how to put it.”
Details of the Douglass case were revealed as it emerged NGN is facing up to a potential 25,000 further claims for misuse of private information – some 15 years after it made its first pay out to a victim of phone hacking.
At a two-day hearing last month, the company failed in a bid to create a ‘final cut-off date’ in the managed mobile telephone voicemail intercept litigation (MTVIL), which began back in 2011.
The publisher has since settled ‘approximately 1,028 claims’ as well as more than 350 applications made through its own compensation scheme, the court heard.
NGN has never accepted liability for voicemail interception or unlawful information gathering in relation to The Sun.
It does not admit any wrongdoing by The Sun in relation to Mrs Douglass or any other 7/7 victim.
However, despite denying liability, it has made out-of-court settlements for substantial amounts of damages in claims, of Sienna Miller, Simon Hughes and Paul Gascoigne, which only make allegations against The Sun.
Anthony Hudson QC, for NGN, said the litigation has featured at least 45 hearings, not including costs hearings, since 2016 alone.
There have also been 12 trials, “equating to 53 weeks of court time”, listed and vacated since the MTVIL began, he said.
He added: “To NGN’s knowledge, no other comparable litigation in the English courts has been as prolonged as the MTVIL.”
He said the total costs payable by NGN for the previous tranche of claims came to almost £35m, which bears “no proportionate relation to the settlement payments of £15,410,050”.
Hudson suggested the Claimants’ lawyers have an “incentive” to continue the MTVIL, saying: “The fact that costs are so high only benefits one group of people and, as is often the way, it is the lawyers.”
But David Sherborne, for the Claimants, said: “The costs directly result from NGN’s own concealed wrongdoing committed in respect of an enormous number of victims over very many years.”
Sherborne said NGN has paid £11.5m in costs in respect of the previous tranche of the litigation and made an interim payment of £1.5m in the current tranche, which are “dwarfed when compared to the total damages in excess of £41m recovered by Claimants” in those two groups.
Mr Justice Fancourt dismissed NGN’s application, but said a final cut-off date could be made “at a later date”, adding: “At some stage, the managed litigation has to be brought to a controlled conclusion.”
The ruling came after the publication of NGN’s accounts for the year ending June 27, 2021, which revealed that the company spent around £49m on legal fees and damages in relation to unlawful information gathering claims, down from £80m the previous year.
* The case continues.