London: The phone-hacking row widened beyond Rupert Murdoch's UK titles with Heather Mills, former wife of Paul McCartney, claiming that her phone was hacked by the Mirror Group of newspapers to access messages left for her by the Beatles star while she was in India in 2001.

At the time her phone was hacked in 2001, McCartney was Mills' boy-friend and the two married in 2002. They divorced in 2008.

The Mirror Group is part of Trinity Mirror, which publishes over 260 titles including the Daily and Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and People.

Mills told the BBC last night that a senior Mirror Group journalist admitted hacking voicemails left for her by McCartney. She said that after McCartney left the voicemail in 2001, the journalist rang her quoting parts of the recording.

Mills said that in early 2001 she had a row with McCartney, who later left a conciliatory message on her voicemail while she was away in India.

Later, a senior Mirror Group journalist rang her and "started quoting verbatim the messages from my machine". Mills said she challenged the journalist saying: "You've obviously hacked my phone and if you do anything with this story... I'll go to the police." She said the person responded: "OK, OK, yeah we did hear it on your voice messages, I won't run it." Trinity Mirror responded to the allegation by saying: "Our position is clear. All our journalists work within the criminal law and the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) code of conduct."

The BBC reported that the journalist whom Mills said contacted her was not CNN presenter Piers Morgan, who was the editor of the Daily Mirror at the time, but the message in question appears to be the same as one which Morgan later admitted to having listened to.

In a 2006 article in the Daily Mail, Morgan referred to having heard a recorded message which McCartney had left for Mills.

He wrote: "At one stage I was played a tape of a message Paul had left for Heather on her mobile phone." Morgan added: "It was heartbreaking.

The couple had clearly had a tiff, Heather had fled to India, and Paul was pleading with her to come back. He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang 'We Can Work It Out' into the answer phone."

Morgan, the Mirror's editor between 1995 and 2004, has consistently denied sanctioning any phone hacking.

In a statement issued through CNN, Morgan said: "Heather Mills has made unsubstantiated claims about a conversation she may or may not have had with a senior executive from a Trinity Mirror newspaper in 2001.

He added: "I have no knowledge of any conversation any executive from other newspapers at Trinity Mirror may or may not have had with Heather Mills. To reiterate, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone."

According to the BBC report, many other prominent people, including footballer Rio Ferdinand and TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson, also believe their phones were hacked by the Mirror group.

 

(Agencies)