Prince Harry witness statement: Duke blames tabloids for ‘inciting hatred’ – and casting him as a ‘thicko’ and a ‘playboy’
Prince Harry has blamed the tabloid press for “inciting hatred and harassment” in his private life, saying he ended up “playing up to a lot of the headlines” when he was cast as a “playboy prince” and a “thicko” as a young royal.
Details of Harry‘s accusations against the publisher of the Mirror newspaper have been released in his witness statement as he begins giving evidence in court.
The Duke of Sussex wrote: “I genuinely feel that in every relationship that I’ve ever had – be that with friends, girlfriends, with family or with the army, there’s always been a third party involved, namely the tabloid press.”
He said he was bringing the claim “to hold people to account for what they have done, so that they can’t hide behind their own institution or organisation”, and that he was “determined to get to the bottom of it once and for all”.
Members of the Royal Family get “cast into a specific role by the tabloid press”, he said. As “spare” to the “heir” – Prince William – “you’re then either the ‘playboy prince’, the ‘failure’, the ‘drop out’ or, in my case, the ‘thicko’, the ‘cheat’, the ‘underage drinker’, ‘irresponsible drug taker’, the list goes on.
“As a teenager and in my early twenties, I ended up feeling as though I was playing up to a lot of the headlines and stereotypes that they wanted to pin on me mainly because I thought that, if they are printing this rubbish about me and people were believing it, I may as well ‘do the crime’, so to speak.
“It was a downward spiral, whereby the tabloids would constantly try and coax me, a ‘damaged’ young man, into doing something stupid that would make a good story and sell lots of newspapers. Looking back on it now, such behaviour on their part is utterly vile.”
Because of the personality he had been portrayed as, every time he walked into a room he “expected people to be thinking ‘he’s obviously going to fail this test, because he’s a thicko’,” he wrote.
Other key claims from Harry’s witness statement:
• “Intrusion” into his private life caused paranoia around his relationships
• He feels “sick” at the thought of former Mirror editor Piers Morgan and journalists allegedly hacking his mother Diana‘s phone
• He believes both the UK press and government “are at rock bottom”
• Reveals he has never been an account holder or received a bill for a mobile phone – this was dealt with “by the Institution, presumably for security purposes although that now seems rather ironic”
• He also says the Institution could “wipe our devices remotely”
Harry, 38, is suing the publisher, attempting to prove that reporters for the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People titles were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators, between 1996 and 2010.
MGN is contesting the claims and has either denied or not admitted each of them. The publisher also argues that some of the claimants have brought their legal action too late.
Relationships before Meghan
In his statement, Harry said he found it hard to trust people and that he suffered “bouts of depression and paranoia”, with friends and girlfriends becoming “instant targets”.
At least one of his girlfriends told him “she was warned off me by her parents saying ‘is it really worth all the aggravation?’,” he wrote.
Writing about his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy, he said alleged press intrusion “led her to make the decision that a royal life was not for her, which was incredibly upsetting for me at the time”.
‘My mother wasn’t paranoid’
In his statement, Harry also included details of newspaper reports based on a “rumour” that his biological father was James Hewitt.
Princess Diana did have an affair with Major Hewitt while she was married to the now King Charles.
“Numerous newspapers had reported a rumour that my biological father was James Hewitt, a man my mother had a relationship with after I was born,” Harry wrote.
“At the time of this article and others similar to it, I wasn’t actually aware that my mother hadn’t met Major Hewitt until after I was born.”
The prince went on to say he felt “constantly suspicious” of “everyone” around him, and adds: “I’ve always heard people refer to my mother as paranoid, but she wasn’t. She was fearful of what was actually happening to her and now I know that I was the same.”
More key points from the witness statement
• Harry says he was “only 5%” funded by the UK taxpayer as a royal, but that tabloids felt they “owned him”
• Hits out at medical details such as injuries being published – says he was “singled out” as a “p****” at school and at Sandhurst
• Says he is “shocked and appalled at the sheer volume” of payments made by MGN titles to private investigators
• Admits he would have used the phrase “two-face s***” about “indiscreet” Paul Burrell, his mother’s former butler
• Criticises the “cowardice” of journalists not giving evidence in court
• Details story about poker night with the late Caroline Flack, and says she was “often hounded” by tabloids
‘Harry’s Cocaine Ecstasy and GHB Parties’ and other stories
Harry alleges about 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 contained information gathered using unlawful methods, and 33 of these have been selected to be considered at the trial.
In his statement, he discusses each of them. Referring to the story above, he said it affected his time at school. “This article, along with the NOTW coverage, had a huge impact on my life. Eton had a zero drugs policy in place, and I was extremely worried I was going to be expelled,” he wrote.
Referring to another story, headlined “Beach Bum Harry”, published in 2003, Harry explained this was about a trip to Noosa, in Australia, and it included a picture of him in the sea. He had been staying in a house with friends after visiting Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Zoo when he was photographed.
“I only learnt recently that the Queen had asked one of her assistant private secretaries to fly out to Noosa and take a house down the road from where I was staying, without me knowing,” he wrote. “She was concerned about the extent of the coverage of my trip and wanted someone I knew to be nearby, in case I needed support.”
Charles was ‘sympathetic’ over incident with paparazzi photographer
Harry also described being accused of lashing out at a photographer in a scuffle outside a nightclub in 2004, and how a photograph appeared in the media.
“This was a particularly challenging period of my youth,” he said. “I had just turned 20, and like most 20 year-olds, I wanted to go out and socialise. However, everywhere I went, the paparazzi seemed to turn up…”
He added: “As I reached the car, I could hear taunting. I was being egged on for a reaction, knowing I’d been out and had a few drinks. A camera hit me across my nose as I was opening the door, I turned, grabbed the nearest camera to me and shoved it backwards.”
Harry said he was taken back to Clarence House afterwards and then to see a doctor.
“Everyone in the family, including my father, was sympathetic to the position I was in, there was no respite, never an ‘off’ moment when I was allowed to go out with my friends without the intrusion and harassment.”
He said he was “not sure how the defendant’s journalists could have legitimately obtained” the information they had in their story.
‘I promised Chelsy I wasn’t given a lap dance’
Writing about an article headlined “Chel Shocked”, published by The People in 2006, Harry said he visited a Spearmint Rhino strip club but did not have a lap dance.
The article reported that his then girlfriend Ms Davy had gone “berserk” and slammed the phone down over the night out – however, the duke said in his witness statement: “I don’t think Chelsy did go mad about me going there. We did speak about it over the phone, but I promised her that I hadn’t had a lap dance and stayed with the three other cadets that had girlfriends.”
The duke said he believed journalists had access to one of their phone records.
“The detail about the timing and length of the calls is so specific. With hindsight, it seems likely to me that the Defendant’s journalists had access to one of our phone records and put two and two together to make a story.”
‘I need to make sure this unlawful behaviour is exposed’
In his statement, Harry describes having “a front row seat” to the “huge problem” of those in the media who “have stolen or highjacked the privileges and powers of the press”.
He said he does not want anyone else to experience what he has “on a personal level”, and continued: “But also, on a national level as, at the moment, our country is judged globally by the state of our press and our government – both of which I believe are at rock bottom…
“I may not have a role within the Institution but, as a member of the British Royal family, and as a soldier upholding important values, I feel there’s a responsibility to expose this criminal activity in the name of public interest.”
The opening arguments from lawyers
On Monday, lawyers for both sides made their opening arguments, with David Sherborne, for Harry, claiming that Mirror journalists listened to voicemail messages from Princess Diana while Piers Morgan was editor of the newspaper.
He also told the court how alleged intrusion caused “mistrust” between Harry and Prince William. There was “no time” in Harry’s life “when he was safe from this activity”, the barrister said, adding: “Nothing was sacrosanct or out of bounds and there was no protection from this unlawful information gathering.”
In his opening statement, MGN’s lawyer, Andrew Green, told the court there was no evidence to support the duke’s claims.
It was “obvious” that security arrangements around Harry “were like very few on Earth”, he said, and that any journalist “would know they would be taking an absolutely enormous risk” in carrying out any unlawful activity around the royal.
He also dismissed the claim that Princess Diana’s voicemails were hacked as “total speculation” and “without any evidential basis whatsoever”.
Harry did not attend Monday’s court session – much to the “surprise” of the judge, Mr Justice Fancourt – as he only flew into the UK from Los Angeles on Sunday night, having celebrated his daughter Lilibet’s second birthday earlier that day, Mr Sherborne said.
Harry in Court – Watch special programme on Sky News tonight at 9pm
Russell Brand ‘ripped holes in woman’s tights’ and ‘refused to call her taxi until she performed a sex act’
A woman has told Sky News that Russell Brand made her feel “vulnerable and intimidated” – and alleges he refused to call her a taxi until she performed a sex act.
It comes as new allegations continue to emerge about the comedian’s behaviour, as another organisation cut ties with him.
Sarah, whose name has been changed, claims she met Russell Brand on an aeroplane where he “seemed friendly and charming”.
He invited her for breakfast and a walk after the flight and she agreed to travel in his limousine.
“He changed,” she says, “like he wasn’t friendly and charming in the limo. He was aggressive and I felt very vulnerable and intimidated.”
She describes Brand “jumping” on her.
“The limo driver was turning around a few times because I was saying no, but he ripped a hole – more than one hole – in the tights that I was wearing,” she says.
Sarah says they drove straight to Brand’s house where they had consensual sex.
“I mean, it was consensual. I didn’t say no,” she said, “but I feel like there’s a fine line between being forced and being coerced, you know, like being in a situation where the only way out is just to get it over and done with and leave.”
She claims Brand then refused to call her a taxi until she performed oral sex on him.
“I wanted to leave and I said, ‘I need to get a taxi’. And he said, ‘I’m not going to get you a taxi until you do this’, which was a sex act.”
She describes feeling “really trapped” and wanting to “scale that house.”
Sky News has reached out to Russell Brand’s representatives for comment.
‘No, no, no’
The BBC, meanwhile, has said it is looking into new allegations by another woman who claimed he exposed himself to her.
The woman, whom the BBC is naming ‘Olivia’, said she was working in the same building as Brand 15 years ago in Los Angeles when the incident happened.
She claims she answered the door to Brand and his team, and when she went into the bathroom she noticed he was behind her.
Speaking to the BBC, she claims Brand said he was going to have sex with her, to which she replied “no, you’re not”.
Olivia then alleges Brand showed her his genitals to which she responded with “no, no, no”.
She says she returned to her desk afterwards and texted a BBC employee in the office about what had happened.
The employee told her that he knew because Brand was talking about it in the studio, on Radio 2.
In the broadcast, which aired on 21 June 2008, Brand is heard speaking to his co-presenter Matt Morgan about it.
Morgan said: “[It’s been] 25 minutes since he showed his w**** to a lady,” and referred to “the receptionist”.
Brand is apparently heard laughing in the background.
According to the BBC report, Olivia never made a complaint, but management was informed in 2019 and no formal action was taken.
The BBC said it was sorry to hear the allegations and would investigate them as part of a review into Brand’s time at the BBC.
In a statement reported on BBC News, Matt Morgan said: “I was not aware until now of the nature of this encounter.
“I’ve expressed my regrets now looking back at the impact of the show and this is a further example.
“The recent coverage has been very distressing to read and I reiterate my absolute condemnation of any form of the mistreatment of women.”
Comedian Nish Kumar has also spoken out, on his Pod Save The UK podcast, describing the presence of alleged sexual predators as an “open secret” on the comedy scene.
Brand, 48, has previously been accused of rape, sexual assault and abuse by four other women between 2006 and 2013.
He has denied all the claims – saying that his relationships have always been consensual.
The accusations were first reported by the Sunday Times, The Times, and Channel 4’s Dispatches earlier this month.
The Metropolitan Police subsequently said it had received a sexual assault allegation against Brand dating back to 2003.
As a result, a number of organisations have now cut ties with the presenter.
The latest to end its association with Brand is the Treasures Foundation, which said it had been “extremely saddened” by the allegations.
In a statement, the charity said it was “founded on Christian principles” and is “totally committed to advocating for the voices of women”.
It continues: “As a result of the recent media investigation into Russell Brand, we have made the decision to no longer receive any support from Mr Brand, and the Stay Free Foundation.
“Moving forward our focus remains on the women under our care.”
Comedian Nish Kumar says presence of sexual predators in industry is ‘open secret’ following Russell Brand allegations
Nish Kumar says young women have been advised to steer clear of dressing rooms used by ‘predators’ still working on the comedy scene.
The comedian also said the knowledge of Russell Brand‘s alleged abuse against young women was “a well-known open secret on the comedy circuit” and he thinks it’s likely “there’s more allegations to come”.
Brand has been accused of rape, sexual assault and abuse and sexual misconduct by a number of women – claims he vehemently denies.
Speaking on his Pod Save The UK podcast, Kumar said: “This stuff is still happening, there are still people working in comedy who are the subject of open secrets.
“There are still people who work in comedy that we can’t name because again, of the threat of lawsuits. And there are still people working in comedy who people will say, ‘Oh, we don’t send young women into their dressing room’.”
The 38-year-old added: “Now at that stage for me, you should be sacked from that job. If you can’t have someone be around young women, they have no place in any kind of workplace.
“The tolerance of it is something that we are going to have to actually have a reckoning with.”
Kumar, who previously hosted The Mash Report and Late Night Mash – said he first heard about Brand’s alleged wrongdoings in mid-2017, and that “from that point onwards it was well known”.
He said it went on to be discussed by multiple comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2018.
However, he said the “very specific and serious allegation” against Brand that he had first been made aware of was not one that was discussed in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme which aired at the weekend.
For that reason, Kumar said he thinks “it is possible that there’s more allegations to come”.
Pointing to Brand’s diminishing TV work in the UK after 2019, Kumar said: “That’s simply because increasingly people were just not willing to work with him. Everyone was afraid to talk about it because of the threat of lawsuits, you know?
“And so, the only power people had was to withdraw participation from shows involving Russell Brand.”
Abuse of power is an industry wide problem
He said as a comedian working in the industry, he too felt a sense of “guilt” and “complicity”.
Kumar said: “Watching it as a cisgendered, heterosexual male comedian, you feel a certain sense of guilt and a certain sense of complicity because you’ve been working with production companies and producers who are providing an infrastructure that allows predators to thrive.”
He said the “indulgence” of top talent was “an issue that cuts across all of the industries,” and which needed to be addressed.
Kumar concluded: “The only people to come out of this with anything approaching any credibility are the victims who have been brave enough to step forward and the journalists who have worked extremely hard to produce rigorous pieces of journalism so that they could get around the threats of a very powerful man’s lawyers.”
Brand, 48, was initially accused of rape, sexual assault and abuse by four women with the alleged offences taking place between 2006 and 2013.
The comedian and presenter denies the claims, and says all his relationships have been consensual.
Following the report by the Sunday Times, The Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches, two further women have come forward with allegations against Brand.
The Metropolitan Police says it has received an allegation of sexual assault against him dating back to 2003.
The BBC also says it is looking into allegations by a woman who claims Brand exposed himself to her and then laughed about it afterwards on his Radio 2 show.
In the wake of the claims, numerous companies have cut ties with Brand including his management company, a women’s charity and several of his YouTube sponsors.
Sky News has approached Russell Brand for comment.
Angus Cloud: Euphoria star’s cause of death revealed as accidental overdose
Euphoria actor Angus Cloud died from an accidental overdose from a lethal combination of drugs, a California coroner’s report has found.
The 25-year-old was found unresponsive at his family home in Oakland in July.
Cloud died of a lethal mix of methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine and benzodiazepines, the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau confirmed to Sky News’ partner network NBC News.
Following his death, Cloud’s mother said on social media that she believed her son “did not intend to end his life,” and said he had been talking about his plans for himself and his family in the hours before he died.
His family also spoke about his battles with mental health, saying, “we hope that his passing can be a reminder to others that they are not alone and should not fight this on their own in silence”.
The actor had been mourning the death of his own father from mesothelioma (a type of cancer) and had travelled to Ireland to bury him the week before his death.
Cloud was best known for playing the drug dealer Fezco opposite Zendaya on hit teen drama show Euphoria.
He was working in a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, when he was scouted for his first acting role by Euphoria’s casting director.
Following his death, Euphoria creator Sam Levinson said: “There was no one quite like Angus. He was too special, too talented and way too young to leave us so soon. He also struggled, like many of us, with addiction and depression.
“I hope he knew how many hearts he touched. I loved him. I always will. Rest in peace and God Bless his family.”
:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email email@example.com in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.
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