By RAPHAEL SATTER, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — She squared off against former Beatle Paul McCartney in divorce court; on Thursday, Heather Mills took on Piers Morgan at Britain's media ethics inquiry.
The ex-model trashed Morgan's earlier testimony, saying that one of her private voicemails, which was played to the CNN interviewer and former tabloid editor, could have been obtained only through phone hacking.
Mills spoke under oath at Lord Justice Brian Leveson's inquiry into the practices of Britain's scandal-hit press, and said two dozen messages left for her by the former Beatle were intercepted by a journalist working for British newspaper group Trinity Mirror.
She said the incident happened after she and McCartney had a fight in January 2001, when McCartney, then her boyfriend, bombarded her with phone calls.
"There were about 25 messages, all asking for forgiveness, (asking:) 'Would I come back?'" Mills said. "One of them said: 'Please forgive me,' and he sang a little ditty of one of his songs into the voicemail."
She said she found it strange that the messages were listed as having been listened to even before she had accessed them, but said she didn't realize what had happened until the Mirror journalist — unnamed for legal reasons — called her up and confronted her with details of the battle.
"I said: 'There's no way that you could know that unless you have been listening to my messages,'" she told the inquiry. "And he laughed."
The messages left for Mills by McCartney are at the center of the allegations against CNN star interviewer Piers Morgan, who was editor of the Daily Mirror tabloid at the time. Morgan wrote in 2006 that he had once been played an apologetic message left by McCartney for Mills, describing it in detail and noting that McCartney "even sang 'We Can Work It Out' into the answer phone."
Called before the U.K. inquiry last year, Morgan denied ordering anyone to hack a phone or writing stories based on hacked messages. He acknowledged listening to Mill's voicemail message but stubbornly refused to say anything about how he had gotten it.
Morgan even left open the possibility that the voicemail had been played to him with Mills' approval, but Mills said Thursday that was impossible.
"Never," she said. "Never ever."
Mills married the popular McCartney in 2002 and had a daughter with him before they divorced in 2008. She sought and got a substantial divorce settlement, becoming a tabloid hate figure after they separated. She is a fierce critic of tabloid journalists in general and Morgan in particular.
Morgan, who has become a media celebrity in the United States since taking over from Larry King at CNN, has returned the favor, casting aspersions on her credibility and calling her a "monster."
Leveson's inquiry was set up in the wake of Britain's tabloid phone-hacking scandal, which shocked the country with revelations that journalists at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World routinely eavesdropped on the private communications of those in the public eye.
Several journalists have been arrested, top media executives have resigned, and Murdoch closed the 168-year-old tabloid in July.