Editor: I saved Sheridan trial witness from suicide - Press Gazette

Editor: I saved Sheridan trial witness from suicide

A journalist told a court how he stopped the attempted suicide of a woman whose alleged affair with Tommy Sheridan was reported in his newspaper.

Douglas Wight, 37, news editor of the News of the World between 2000 and 2006, said Fiona McGuire tried to swallow a mouthful of pills on the eve of Sheridan`s defamation action against the tabloid.

Almost two years previously, in November 2004, the News of the World printed a five-page article about her alleged four-year affair with the former MSP.

On Friday, Wight told the court McGuire tried to take an overdose – her second suicide attempt – in a hotel just before the start of the libel action in summer 2006, at which she was due to give evidence.

He said: “Just before the case started, I think maybe the Monday and the case started on the Tuesday, she tried to take a mouthful of pills and tried to swallow them but I stopped her. That’s when we took her to the second doctor.”

Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, deny lying under oath during his successful defamation action against the News of the World in 2006.

The action followed the newspaper’s claims that Sheridan was an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs.

He won £200,000 in damages after the newspapers printed the allegations about his private life.

Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC said he had no questions to put to Wight.

Sheridan, who is defending himself, moved straight into cross-examination, during which he questioned Wight about what evidence the newspaper had of the affair.

Wight told the court he had not seen any texts between McGuire and Sheridan, nor seen Sheridan’s number in her phone.

He did not go to hotels where the pair had allegedly met to check with staff because McGuire had not provided any dates.

Sheridan accused him of using a vulnerable woman, saying: “Is it not the case that you knew full well that this woman had mental health problems?

“This woman had tried to take her own life on two occasions.

“This woman could not give you a single date or day when she met me – you didn’t have a text message or phone call.

“You were exploiting a vulnerable woman to get a five-page splash.”

Wight replied: “If we were so desperate to screw you, why would we not have run it in September or October?”

Wight said the newspaper only decided to print the story after other allegations about Sheridan’s private life emerged, adding that they believed the story to be “substantially true”.

The witness denied sleeping with McGuire, saying “I take offence at that suggestion.”

The court heard McGuire was eventually offered £20,000 for the story, though Wight said initially she did not seem interested in money.

Sheridan suggested people forget about the truth when “wads of dosh” are waved about.

Sheridan added: “That’s what happened with Fiona McGuire: the money was waved in front of her nose and she was ready to tell you a story that was absolute fantasy.”

Wight answered: “Fiona McGuire has stood up in court and said she had a four-year affair with you.”

The indictment against the Sheridans contains three charges in total, two of which are broken into subsections.

It is alleged Sheridan made false statements as a witness in the defamation action of July 21 2006.

He also denies a charge of attempting to persuade a witness to commit perjury shortly before the 23-day trial got under way.

Mrs Sheridan denies making false statements on July 31 2006, after being sworn in as a witness in the civil jury trial.

The trial before Lord Bracadale was adjourned until tomorrow.



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