The Duke of Sussex has arrived at court in London and is expected to give evidence at the phone-hacking trial, the day after the court heard his mum’s voicemails were listened to by Daily Mirror journalists while Piers Morgan was editor.
Prince Harry is suing MGN over alleged voicemail hacking and unlawful newsgathering he says goes back to when he was just 11-years-old. On Monday he was accused of ‘wasting court time’ by not attending, but his lawyers disputed this and said the day was always set to just be made up of opening statements.
Mr Sherborne said Daily Mirror journalists “plainly listened in to voicemail messages”, and that was “how they knew secret and highly sensitive details of Princess Diana and Michael Barrymore, who was struggling with coming out as gay” and had endured a drug addiction battle.
In March 1997, she wrote to the TV star saying: "Dear Michael, what joy it was to finally meet you tonight. I did want to emphasise that I’m here for you, whatever, whenever. It’s very easy to pop round and see you."
In a later message, Diana said she was "devastated" to learn the Daily Mirror had been asking about six meetings they had together.
"Nobody knew about our conversations/phone call. How deeply sorry I am [that] what I considered to be a private matter has become public property", she wrote.
In a letter from June 1997, two months before she died in a car crash in Paris, Diana was writing to Barrymore asking: “Are you OK? I am concerned because I haven’t heard from you for some time – I hope the silence is good news!”
She added: “I have had a nightmare time with the tabloids”.
Mr Sherborne said Morgan referred to the Mirror’s disclosure of the private friendship in his memoir, The Insider, in which he wrote that he “heard rumours Diana had been secretly comforting him (Barrymore).”
The barrister suggested Barrymore had been “frightened off” by the intrusion into their personal relationship.
Responding to the claims, MGN’s barrister Andrew Green KC called it “total speculation with no evidence whatsoever”.
“The letters you were shown are not evidence of voicemail interception”, he added. “There is no other evidence, and plainly no such finding could be made.”
In his opening address on Monday, Mr Sherborne highlighted a story about Harry suffering a back injury at school, forcing him to stop playing rugby.
He said the story had the “tell-tale signs of unlawful information gathering”, which allegedly began even when Harry was still at school.
“His mother and father had separated in 1995, the divorce followed in 1996”, he said.
“Prince Harry was still at school, somewhere which offered him little protection from the defendant’s unlawful information gathering.”
It is said photographers for MGN were also involved in illegal activities, to be in the right spot to photograph their famous targets.
Mr Sherborne showed the court a September 2000 story about Harry’s 16th birthday, when a photographer was waiting as the Prince joined friends at a pub lunch.
He said Harry’s visit had been “unexpected”, even to invited guests, yet the photographer was well-placed to get the picture.
It is said MGN journalists used unlawful means not just to secure exclusives, but also to “stand up” stories from other newspapers and to seek a new angle on an existing story.
Prince Harry is due to start giving his evidence in the case on Tuesday morning.
MGN denies phone hacking against the Prince, and has either denies or not admitted unlawful activity in all but one instance involving Harry.
The trial continues.