News of the World drove my mother to attempt suicide, says Charlotte Church
Charlotte Church has told the press ethics inquiry that her mother attempted suicide partly because Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World was planning to run a story about her father’s affair.
The former child star also claimed on Monday that after singing at Murdoch’s wedding when she was 13, she waived a £100,000 fee in exchange for a promise of favourable treatment by his newspapers.
“A lot of this happened when I was just a minor and really young. It has had a psychological effect on me,” Church, now a 25-year-old mother of two, told the inquiry led by senior judge Brian Leveson.
Church, who as a young singing sensation also entertained Queen Elizabeth II, late pope John Paul II and US president Bill Clinton, said she had suffered from media intrusion since she was aged 14.
Addressing the Leveson inquiry at the start of a second week of hearings, Church said a private investigator working for the now-defunct News of the World had hacked the phones of her family, friends and old boyfriends when she was 17.
She said the News of the World published a story that Church’s father had “three-in-a-bed” sex and took cocaine, while also reporting that her mother tried to commit suicide.
Her mother’s suicide attempt was “at least in part” because she knew the affair story was coming, Church told the inquiry.
“They knew how vulnerable she (my mother) was and still printed this story, which was horrific. I can’t think of any justification for printing a story like that,” she said.
Church also said she was hired to sing at Murdoch’s wedding to Chinese-born Wendi Deng on his yacht in New York and that she received the offer of money or good publicity afterwards.
“I remember being told (about) the offer of money or the offer of the favour, in order to basically get good press, to be looked upon favourably,” she said.
She and her mother wanted to take the money but her management and record company figures advised them to take the publicity offer, Church said.
News International, the British newspaper arm of Murdoch’s US-based News Corp. empire, denies that any such offer was made.
Church also said she needed to hire bodyguards after another Murdoch-owned newspaper, the Sunday Times, misquoted her about the bravery of firemen in the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Broadcaster Anne Diamond then told the inquiry how Murdoch’s Sun tabloid splashed a photo of her baby son’s funeral on its front page despite her and her husband begging them not to.
The market-leading paper then pressured her to front its campaign to raise money for research into cot deaths, she said, adding that she felt “emotionally blackmailed”.
Earlier on Monday, Chris Jefferies — an innocent man arrested over the high-profile murder of Bristol landscape architect Joanna Yeates, for which a Dutch man was later convicted — told the inquiry how he was subjected to a “witch-hunt” by the press.
The retired teacher won damages from eight newspapers over stories published after his arrest over the murder of 25-year-old landscape architect Jo Yeates last Christmas, in a case that dominated the British media.
The headlines included “Jo Suspect Scared Kids — Obsessed by Death”, “Jo Suspect Is Peeping Tom” and “The Strange Mr Jefferies: Creepy”.
“The press set about what can only be described as a witch-hunt,” he said.
The media inquiry was launched by Prime Minister David Cameron in July amid the furore over the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World.
During the dramatic first week of testimony, “Harry Potter” author J. K. Rowling and actors Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller launched an onslaught against the newspapers they accused of ruining their lives.