Comedian Steve coogan yesterday claimed that a Daily Mirror journalist telephoned his daughter's great-grand-mother in 1996 pretending to be doing a council survey - but then proceeded to ask her questions about his private life.
Coogan said: "When challenged, the reporter admitted she was from the Daily Mirror. She insisted that this was the way things were done and urged the old lady to 'spill the beans so it would be over with'."
He claimed that the Mirror obtained her number by copying her address from the back of a letter found in the cummunal lobby of his flat.
Coogan also revealed how the Sunday Times in 2008 published a photo of his children taken by a photographer with a telephoto lens to illustrate a profile piece.
He said that at the time the pictures were taken he confronted the photographer only to be told that he was taking a picture of something else. Coogan said the photos were then sold by agency Big Pictures to the Sunday Times. Coogan said the Sunday Times susbequently printed an apology: "A one inch item on page two or three".
Coogan also claimed that at times reporters have gone through the rubbish in his bins. He said: "There is a horrible cumulative effect of being under constant surveillance."
Coogan also hit back at what he called "blatant falsehoods", including a Daily Mail story which he said was headlined: "The truth about the man blamed for 'leading Owen Wilson to the bring of suicide'".
He said: "There was absolutely no truth in the allegation. I had not been in the same continent as Owen for nine months prior to this episode and I had never taken drugs with him or in his presence."
He added: "Four years later the story is still on the Mail's website, easily found through Google. I can't see how Paul Dacre's page two retraction suggestion would make the blindest bit of difference."
Coogan claimed that tabloid newspapers operate like "a protection racket".
He said: "Let us operate with impunity, without impediment or any kind of regulation and we will leave you alone. We might even be nice to you or help you get elected. But if you make life difficult for us then we will take revenge. We won't beat you up, we'll instruct our minions to drag your name through the mud by any means necessary...
"This is why I decided to take action. I don't like bullies - playground ones or Australian ones in suits."
Coogan insisted that he "never entered into a Faustian pact with the press". He said: "I did not become successful in my work through embracing or engaging in celebrity culture....I am not someone who courts press attention. I don't turn up to openings. I do not preach morality to anyone, nor do I set myself up as a role model."