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Prince Harry hacking trial said tabloids “painted her as promiscuous” and lit Nikki Sanderson’s hair on fire.

After Prince Harry’s High Court testimony, Hollyoaks and Coronation Street star Nikki Sanderson testified. Two of the four representative plaintiffs sued Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for allegedly illegal information gathering.

The High Court heard that soap star Nikki Sanderson was abused as a young woman due to tabloid headlines calling her “immoral,” including “screaming insults” and having her hair “set on fire.”

Prince harry hacking trial said tabloids "painted her as promiscuous" and lit nikki sanderson's hair on fire.
Prince Harry hacking trial said tabloids "painted her as promiscuous" and lit Nikki Sanderson's hair on fire.

Following Prince Harry into the witness box to testify against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, the actress, who currently stars in Hollyoaks but rose to prominence as a teenager after landing the role of Candice Stowe on Coronation Street in 1999, starred in Hollyoaks.

On Friday, while responding to cross-examination questions, Ms. Sanderson, 39, became emotional. And she stated that recalling the details of articles written about her had been “traumatic.”

She also accused MGN of employing “gaslighting” in denying her allegations.

It is alleged that journalists at MGN titles, including the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, were involved in illegal activities. Such as phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or obtaining information through deception, and the use of private investigators.

From 1999 to 2005, Ms. Sanderson featured in Coronation Street.

MGN asserts that her claim was filed too late and denies any illegal activity, except in four instances in 2004 and 2005 when its correspondents hired private investigators to gather information about her.

In a witness statement about the impact of tabloid intrusion on her life. Ms. Sanderson characterized “stories insinuating that I was promiscuous” as “very distressing.”

She stated that a story portraying her as “bed-hopping and sleeping with three people in one week” was “so far from the truth” and that the distinction between her and her TV soap opera character had been “blurred.”

People would elbow and shove me.

Ms. Sanderson wrote of “the public backlash”: “I was subjected to both mental and physical assault.

“People would yell at me in the street, referring to me as a whore, a scumbag, and a whore.

People would elbow and push me, and once a group of females even set fire to my hair.

She stated that this occurred in the lavatory of a nightclub.

Ms. Sanderson stated, “As I washed my hands, I detected a smoldering odor. They had set fire to the back of my hair when I gazed down.”

She also recalled hiding in a bowling alley bathroom after being threatened by a group of women.

This was a recurring occurrence, she stated.

‘Like serial murderer dramas’

In her statement, Ms. Sanderson recalls paparazzi photographers following her and photographing her while on vacation. Characterizing their behavior as “creepy, like those serial killer dramas you see on television.”

In addition, she criticizes MGN for “hiring random men to follow” her.

“I was a teenager at the time… She wrote that they could have done anything to her.

She testified in court that she believed she could not “go places without someone watching.”

Ms. Sanderson asserts that MGN’s alleged “illegal activities” have had a “huge impact” on her life and rendered her paranoid about sharing information, even with close acquaintances.

In her witness testimony, she suspected a Coronation Street press staffer of disclosing her information. Which she now felt “awful” about.

“I stated it and I stand by it”

At the end of her message, she says she uses “abuse” seriously.

“These individuals held positions of authority,” she wrote. “I was attacked by people who were more powerful than me.”

She told Andrew Green KC, who represents MGN in court, “I said that, and I stand by it.”

In court, the actress said, “The behaviour has been horrifying, and I feel I have been gaslighted.” The fact that I must perform this task today is traumatic.”

Mr. Green then queried the actress, “If you equate your treatment by MGN to child abuse, why did you grant an interview to the Daily Mirror in 2019?”

Ms. Sanderson stated that it was a planned piece for Valentine’s Day and subsequently told the court that there was a distinction between planned interviews under her “control” and those that were not.

Mr. Green demonstrated instances in which Ms. Sanderson was willing to communicate with the media.

He stated, “entirely accurately,” that the actress required media attention “to continue promoting” her career.

In addition, he presented the court with photographs, including one of Ms. Sanderson posing in lingerie for a men’s magazine.

In her witness statement, Ms. Sanderson stated that MGN’s reliance on press articles and photo shoots she consented to was “unfair” and “added insult to injury.”

Working on a soap opera requires certain interviews, television programs, and photoshoots, according to the author.

“There is a massive difference between something you are aware of and in control of versus the defendant hacking into my voicemail messages against my will or hiring people to follow me and take photographs of me.”

MGN argues that the evidence is ‘poor’

Ms. Sanderson’s attorney, David Sherborne, previously told the court that the actress learned she may have a claim against MGN only after speaking with Hollyoaks co-star Gary Lucy.

The actress suspected that acquaintances, people working on Coronation Street, and members of the public were selling stories about her, so she “didn’t suspect unlawful methods were being used” until she spoke to Mr. Lucy about it in 2019, according to Mr. Sherborne.

Mr. Green told the court on Friday that the evidence in Ms. Sanderson’s case is “weak” and that MGN “does not accept that it establishes a case of voicemail interception” or “systemic hacking” of her phone.

One article was acknowledged by the publisher, but thirty-five were denied.

MGN asserts that Ms. Sanderson’s claim was filed too late, but “unreservedly apologizes” for the four payments made to private investigators, which it acknowledges are evidence of instructions to illegally obtain her private information.

Prince Harry and Ms. Sanderson are two of four representative claimants whose testimony against MGN is being heard at the High Court, along with Coronation Street actor Michael Turner, also known as Michael Le Vell, and the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse, Fiona Wightman.

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