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High Court told that Mirror phone-hacking destroyed career of EastEnders actress Lucy Taggart

The flight attendant ex-girlfriend of footballer Rio Ferdinand sobbed as she told the High Court that the hacking of her voicemails had left her feeling "hounded" by the press.

Lauren Alcorn, who is on maternity leave from her job with Virgin Airways, told Mr Justice Mann at the hearing in London to decide the amount of compensation to be awarded in eight representative cases brought against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), that she was 19 when she first started going out with Ferdinand.

Alcorn, who complains about five articles – three of which are admitted to be the product of phone-hacking – said she was "completely shocked and disgusted" by the illegal activities at MGN which carried on in her case from 2002 until 2006.

She said that Ferdinand, who she was seeing secretly as he also had a long-term lover, became increasingly suspicious that she was talking to the press and giving away intimate details of their "pretty intense" relationship.

In her written statement, she said she met Ferdinand in December 2000 when she was introduced to him by a friend in a nightclub.

"I was just a very young girl, living with my mum, as my father had passed away the year before. My relationship with Rio was on and off for several years until about 2006. During this time, Rio also had a relationship with his now wife, who is also the mother of his children.

"Looking back on it now with the benefit of hindsight, that period represents a time in my life that I regret and am very embarrassed about.

"However, I was a young, naive and emotionally vulnerable 19-year-old who got wrapped up with a young man that I thought had feelings for me and vice versa.

"I have never wanted any publicity and see myself as a private individual although I was eventually forced into the public eye because of what happened to me."

Questioned today by counsel David Sherborne, who has said that hacking was widespread at all three of MGN's national titles by mid-1999, Ms Alcorn said that, in 2003, people she barely even knew were questioning her about the newspaper story – the product of hacking – about her being with Ferdinand the day before he missed a drugs test.

"It was even suggested I was a bad influence and I was the reason he missed the test. I felt completely hounded and bombarded by the questioning from complete strangers."

Dabbing her eyes with a tissue, she went on: "I think it's quite shocking really to see the extent of it. I'm a very private person and I never never wanted to be in the public eye. Even walking into court today is my worst nightmare.

"To know that all my personal information is being listened to over so many years, such private and personal things – talking about my father, things which wouldn't have been of interest of anybody – were being listened to."

Alcorn said that the letter of apology she had received before the trial over the hacking at MGN had "no sincerity whatsoever".

"I just wanted to rip it up and put it in the bin. The timing was very coincidental. It just didn't give me any insight into why they did it. That's why I came today – for justice to be served, for them to pay the price for what they did."

Alcorn said she had never thought that phone-hacking was possible: "But when you point a finger at friends and lose friendships and think another friend has betrayed you, you start to think where on earth this information has come from".

The others cases to be decided in the litigation involve TV executive Alan Yentob, actress Sadie Frost, ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, soap stars Shobna Gulati, Lucy Taggart and Shane Richie and TV producer Robert Ashworth.

EastEnders star Steve McFadden, who has played the role of Phil Mitchell since 1990, told the court he believed Mirror articles "destroyed" the career of actress Lucy Taggart, who played his on-screen girlfriend Lisa, and with whom he had a relationship during the time her phone was hacked.

McFadden, 55, giving evidence in relation to Taggart's claim against MGN, said he remembered her being "very upset" about stories published about her and "feeling like she was being picked on and bullied".

He and the actress, then known as Lucy Benjamin, met on the set and were in a relationship from about 2000 to late 2003.

In a witness statement, he said they had hoped to marry, and he got "very close" to proposing, "but the biggest factor that stopped me was thinking that Lucy had a big mouth and was giving out information".

He said: "All the articles in the Mirror's newspapers that were constantly being published about us made me suspect Lucy.

"I thought she was shouting her mouth off. Now of course I know it was nothing like this and it was the Mirror's journalists stealing information from our phones."

The London-born actor said: "I now know that messages I left for Lucy must have been heard by MGN's journalists. Although I find this appalling, in some senses, I am relieved to finally know why and how so much information came out about me and Lucy.

"The sad thing is that you can't turn back the clock on what I thought and accused Lucy of at the time, which was that she was betraying me."

McFadden said in the statement: "Apart from our relationship, the Mirror's articles also had a really profound effect on Lucy's career and how she felt as a person."

He said she believed they were responsible "for putting her out of work and making her unemployable, and I think she was right".

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