Rupert Murdoch ordered his editors to ‘go after’TV presenter Anne Diamond after she accused the media mogul’s papers of ruining people’s lives, she said today.
The claims emerged when Diamond was asked to participate in a phone-hacking documentary focusing on Murdoch’s ‘journalistic methods and character’earlier this year.
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During the course of filming Diamond was told about an interview with Murdoch’s former butler, Phillip Townsend, who claimed he once overheard his employer telling editors in the early 1980s: ‘do you know this woman Diamond? She was very rude to me the other night, about me destroying people’s lives.”
Diamond claimed that ‘Murdoch’s call to his editors left them in doubt that they were to ‘go after’ me”.
In evidence to the Leveson Inquiry today Diamond said the exchange with Murdoch happened at an event commemorating the 200th anniversary of The Times.
Diamond asked him ‘something like ‘how do you sleep at night knowing your papers ruin people’s lives?'”
Murdoch answered that ‘if people sought publicity then they could not protest right to privacy”, she claimed, adding: ‘my newspapers do not ruin people’s lives, people ruin their own lives”.
Diamond, a former regional newspaper journalist, said she was ‘shocked’by the allegations but that in hindsight it helped ‘make some sense of why I received such hostile and intrusive coverage afterwards”.
She added: ‘They went into my past and dug up facts about me which were extremely painful when distorted, misrepresented or taken out of context.”
The first of these episodes occurred three weeks after the meeting with Murdoch when The Sun broke news of her relationship with Michael Hollingsworth, who she would later marry and have five children with.
In 1987 the same paper published a front-page story headlined: ‘Anne Diamond killed my father”, seven years after she was involved in a fatal car accident.
The paper had allegedly tracked down the son of a man killed in the accident – in which Diamond was cleared of any blame by the coroner – for ‘no reason other than prurient sensationalism”.
The Press Council, which was later replaced by the Press Complaints Commission, found the paper had ‘devoted its front page to raking up a seven year old tragedy under wholly misleading headline”.
It also described the article as ‘irresponsible and previous intrusion into privacy”.
Diamond said that ‘perhaps the most shocking’episode came in 1991 after the death of her baby son Sebastian.
‘We wrote personally to every Fleet Street editor begging them to stay from the small, private family funeral,’she said.
‘Despite our express wishes at this most sensitive time, one photographer attended, whom we later learned was a freelance.
‘The Sun subsequently bought and ran the picture of myself, my husband and our son’s coffin, all over its front page the next day.”
The Sun publisher News International was asked to comment but had not replied at the time of publication.