It was the ultimate example of Doing The Right Thing, a concession that demonstrated to all those who claimed the tabloid press was always going to put its sales figures before all else that they were wrong, when in 1998 the Daily Mirror told that it had “rescued” the 62 love letters sent by Diana, Princess of Wales to her former lover James Hewitt.
The paper, then edited by Piers Morgan, told its readers “SENSATIONAL love letters from Princess Diana to James Hewitt were rescued by the Mirror last night [just in time for the next day’s edition. How convenient] … The 62 hand-written letters had been taken from a safe at 39-year-old Hewitt’s Devon home yesterday while he was abroad on business”.
Wow. Do go on. “They were snatched by his fiancée, Italian beauty Anna Ferretti, 39, who then tried to sell them to the Mirror for £150,000 … We immediately handed them to Kensington Palace officials who thanked the Mirror for their safe return”. How very public spirited of them. But the story did not stop there, as a recent court case shows.
As the Guardian reported last month, “Princess Diana’s former lover James Hewitt and her butler Paul Burrell are among dozens of individuals who have joined Prince Harry in the latest round of phone-hacking claims against tabloid newspaper publishers … Hewitt and Burrell recently filed their cases against the publisher of the Daily Mirror at the high court, according to court filings seen by the Guardian, joining the Duke of Sussex in alleging the publisher intercepted their voicemails”. Then came the bombshell.
Byline Investigates has seen more court papers. “PIERS Morgan has been implicated in an extraordinary plot to steal 62 private letters written by Diana, Princess of Wales, explosive High Court documents seen by Byline Investigates reveal. The allegations - which are now likely to form part of her son Prince Harry’s own phone hacking court action against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) - relate to the 54-year-old Good Morning Britain host’s time as editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper”. And there is more.
“They tell how the private letters of Major James Hewitt, with whom the Princess had a relationship between 1986 and 1991, were allegedly stolen from his home in a plan overseen by Mr Morgan’s Daily Mirror in 1998 … [Morgan] was interviewed by police at the time about the burglary, accompanied by MGN’s lawyers, whose representation, it is alleged, showed the MGN board of directors knew of the possibility of criminality at their paper”. So what does the claimants’ argument say about that?
“The claimants also rely on Mr Morgan’s interview by police in relation to the theft of Mr Hewitt’s correspondence with Princess Diana by a former partner, and the fact that Mr Morgan was accompanied by a member of MGN’s Legal Department, who must have known or investigated the Daily Mirror’s involvement with and work relating to Mr Hewitt”.
Needless to say, Morgan, his current employers ITV, and the Mirror’s owners have so far kept schtum. But now the story is out there, and as the claims “are likely to form part of … Prince Harry’s … phone hacking action against … MGN”, there is next to no chance that the Mirror, or any other part of our free and fearless press, can keep the lid on this one.
We live in interesting times. For Piers Morgan, they might become very interesting indeed.
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