Leveson witnesses tell of the suicides caused by tabloid intrusion and lies

The Leveson Inquiry takes a break today, at the end of a week in which celebrities and ordinary people have testified to the abhorrence of the tabloid press.

The Leveson Inquiry takes a break today, at the end of a week in which celebrities and ordinary people, plunged into the limelight, have testified to the abhorrence, the vulgarity, the sheer unconscionableness of the tabloid press, publishing what they like, acting above the law, ruining lives – even taking lives.

Today, Max Mosley spoke of the impact of the News of the World intrusion into his private life on his son, who spiralled back into drugs and overdosed – unable to bear it.

Watch it:

He said of his son:

“He was struggling with it – he had overcome his problem – and the News of the World story had the most devastating effect on him… Like many people on the hard drugs it’s extremely dangerous – you make a small mistake and you die, and that’s what happened.”

Mosley described the invasion of his privacy as “worse than burglary” because the damage could never be repaired.

Earlier this week, the inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press heard from Margaret Watson, whose son killed himself after reading tabloid lies about his sister, who had been murdered 18 months previously, telling the inquiry:

“Journalists should have all the facts and not cause other tragedies to take place.”

Watch it:

Mrs Watson and her husband Jim are camapigning to make it an offence to libel the dead.

The pain of death by tabloid is one also endured by former Blackburn and Manchester City footballer Garry Flitcroft, whose father’s life plunged into depression after newspapers intruded into his private life in 2002, unable to go to games to watch his son “because the chants were so bad”. Mr Flitcroft committed suicide six years later.

Flitcroft told the Leveson Inquiry:

“Suffering from anxiety and depression you’ve got to have something in your life and his life was watching me play football… I would say over the years his depression got worse because he wasn’t watching me play football.”


“There’s no reason why my private life should be in the public interest. If I’d been done for match-fixing or taking cocaine then that’s in the public interest.”

Watch his moving testimony about the death of his father:

As Andrew Neil told the chair of the Press Complaints Commission Lord Hunt on The Daily Politics yesterday lunchtime:

“Our profession has, over the years, been infiltrated by what can only be described as scum, because you would have to be a scummy person to publish Mrs McCann’s diaries, in the way that they did.”

And as Allison Pearson wrote in the Telegraph on Wednesday in which she described phone hackers as “sick vultures that prey on the vulnerable”:

How do they sleep at night? That’s what you find yourself thinking while watching the Leveson Inquiry. Seriously, how do you reckon he lives with himself, the reporter who wrote, quite wrongly, that Diane Watson, a murdered 16-year-old girl, had been a bully, causing so much distress to her grieving family that the next year Diane’s brother killed himself?

Alan Watson took his life at the age of 15, clutching the offending newspaper articles in his hand. Sorrow piled on sorrow. Can parents be orphaned? That’s what Margaret and James Watson looked like, huddling close to each other for support as they gave evidence at the inquiry in London.

Twenty years have passed since they lost both their children; one to a school knifing, the second stabbed through the heart by an irresponsible media. “Sick,” is how Margaret described those tabloid journalists who prey on the vulnerable and from whose intrusions even the blameless dead are not safe…

Not all journalists are the same. Some of us shudder at the vultures who make money, fun and increased circulation out of human misery. Since when did the destruction of a family become public sport? Let’s hope that Lord Justice Leveson teaches the culprits a lesson they’ll never forget.

Nothing can bring back the Watsons’ son, Max Mosley’s son or Flitcroft’s father, but Leveson can at least ensure the wrongdoers are punished, and make damn sure that hacking, intrusion, lies, damned lies and the tabloids never again drive another person to take their own life.

See also:

Tabloid hypocrisy shocker: “Aren’t those other papers nasty, with all that hacking?”Alex Hern, November 22nd 2011

Dowler solicitor: News Int acting “like Soviet Union… you think the KGB are following you”Shamik Das, November 8th 2011

Leveson Inquiry hears of the ethical rot of Fleet StreetAlex Hern, October 7th 2011

The NUJ is the solution to the sickness at News InternationalRuwan Subasinghe, October 6th 2011

The tabloid press have the same attitude to the law as a bunch of feral muggers: if you can get away with it, it’s OKMax Mosley, May 16th 2011

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