Sacked Mail on Sunday diary editor Adam Helliker is to take action against the newspaper for unfair dismissal and is consulting lawyers on suing for defamation.
Helliker begins his fight back this week after he was dismissed by fax on Saturday on four counts of gross misconduct for selling an address book belonging to Princess Diana to a US dealer for £25,000.
The MoS turned its own man over on Sunday when it detailed his part in selling the book, which Helliker claims was given to his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa Corringham, by Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell, when the two worked for the Diana Memorial Fund.
Helliker’s unfair dismissal claim is based on the MoS’s failure to give him a proper disciplinary hearing.
“It was all done in five minutes, very aggressively and very nastily,” he said. “I am appalled at their conduct. I would normally be the last person to ever pursue defamation, but I do feel the MoS has printed many untruths and defamed my character.”
Helliker is sticking to his story that the book was sold to dealer Alicia Carroll with Corringham’s approval, despite the fact that a letter of provenance, supposedly written by Corringham, was written by him.
Corringham and Burrell both disputed Helliker’s version in the MoS and Corringham told the paper she had not received any of the sale cash and is understood to have confirmed this in writing.
The Mail on Sunday refused to discuss a staffing matter, but it is understood Helliker was sacked for failing to inform the editor of an important story; showing reckless disregard for the paper’s reputation; misusing office facilities to conduct private business; and lying to the editor.
An MoS insider said: “We felt we had no option but to be open about it. We can’t run stories about politicians not being open and then not be open ourselves.”
Helliker was called in to editor Peter Wright’s office on Friday of last week and shown a photocopy of the cover of the blue address book as well as his phone records and bank statements. He was escorted out of the building.
“I was shell-shocked because I had been entirely open with him. I considered this was a personal transaction, the same as selling a piece of furniture and I didn’t consider it my duty to tell the newspaper first,” said Helliker, who says he did not offer the book to the MoS because “having worked for the paper for two years I knew they wouldn’t use it responsibly”.
Helliker claimed he and Corringham had decided to place the book abroad to protect her from the publicity that would ensue if it were sold in this country. Carroll told him she wanted material for a Diana tribute museum she was opening. She has since resold the book for £40,000 to a private Japanese collector.
Sunday’s diary carried the picture byline of Helliker’s deputy, Jane Slade, who is not seeking editorship of the column.
Wright may look to The Sunday Telegraph’s Mandrake, Tim Walker, formerly number two on Nigel Dempster’s Mail diary, London Spy Charlie Methven on The Daily Telegraph or Guy Adams at The Independent.
There is also the possibility that Richard Kay’s Daily Mail diary could be extended to seven days.
By Jean Morgan