Hacking victim: Stress led to marriage breakdown

UK media ethics: Leveson Report preview
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Story highlights

  • TV presenter Jacqui Hames says first experience of dealing with press was positive
  • That changed, she says, when her husband appeared on TV to appeal over a murder
  • Hames says strangers rang her husband at work; email alleged she was having affair
  • Surveillance traced to News of the World, she says. Stress led to her marriage ending

When I was informed last year by police that my phone had been hacked by News of The World, I was very angry, but not altogether surprised. I was by then all too familiar with the way that tabloid newspapers thought nothing of invading my privacy, if they thought there might be a story in it.

I am best known in the UK as a presenter on the BBC TV show, "Crimewatch," a crime-fighting factual program, similar in purpose to America's "Most Wanted." I was on "Crimewatch" between 1990 and 2006, but before, during and after my TV stint, I was also a detective with the Metropolitan Police.

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Up until 2002 my experience of the press was generally positive. On "Crimewatch," I witnessed first hand the enormous benefits of working in partnership with the media to solve crime. That's not to say there weren't times when the different agendas conflicted, but that has to be expected.

That was all about to change. My then husband, a detective chief superintendent, appeared on "Crimewatch" to appeal for information in the unsolved 1987 murder of private detective Daniel Morgan, whose business partner Jonathan Rees was alleged to have supplied News of the World's parent company News International with illegally obtained information.

Jacqui Hames

It was a gruesome case: a man killed with an ax outside a south London pub. Soon after, the Met received intelligence that suspects in the case intended to make life difficult for him. The Met took the threat so seriously we were placed under the umbrella of the witness protection unit. Morgan's business partner and two other men were eventually charged in the killing, but the murder case against the three collapsed last year and the charges were dropped.

In 2002 "Crimewatch" was sent an email suggesting that I was having an affair. Strangers phoned my husband's work, attempting to find out our home address and other personal and financial details. Two vans stationed outside our house followed my husband taking the kids to school. By this stage, we feared we were being stalked by the people responsible for the murder.

We took our house off the market, and warned our daughter's headmistress of the risks of strangers hanging around the school. I became very distressed and anxious. The stress that we endured over the subsequent years contributed to the eventual breakdown of my marriage.

The two vans were eventually traced back to the News of the World. The Metropolitan Police sought an explanation from the newspaper about the surveillance and the reason given was simply unbelievable. They said that they were investigating suspicions that my husband and I were having an affair with each other! We had by then been married for four years, together for 11 and had two children. Our marriage was public knowledge -- we'd even been pictured in Hello Magazine.

In 2011, officers from Operation Weeting, a police investigation into phone hacking, informed me that private information about me, including home address, phone numbers and detailed history had been found in the notebooks of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was jailed in 2007 for intercepting phone messages of members of the royal family.

Read a timeline of the hacking scandal

In July 2012, prosecutors said Mulcaire would face four charges relating to the alleged hacking of the phones of murdered teenager Milly Dowler and three other people. He issued a statement denying the latest charges.

The dates on the entries suggested that our phones were being hacked around the same time as the other surveillance was going on. You only have to listen to the stories coming out of the inquiry to know that this kind of harassment wasn't restricted to News of the World. It was widespread across the industry. There was a culture that led some of the papers to behave as if the law did not apply to them. And they got away with it because of self regulation.

In 2011 I gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry into press ethics about our experiences.

What I hope to see coming out of the inquiry is independent regulation, backed up by statute, that has genuine repercussions for anyone who starts to play fast and loose with the system again. I, and other victims of press harassment -- and I would like to stress that most of us are regular members of the public, not celebrities -- don't want to have to go through this again in a few years' time. This is an important moment in history, a chance to reassert a clean and accountable press that we can all be proud of again.

        The hacking scandal

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