Heather Mills, Paul McCartney’s ex, receives ‘substantial’ payout in libel settlement

Paul McCartney, centre, and his ex-wife Heather Mills chat before the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees play in Game 4 of the American League Championship at Yankee Stadium Sunday, Oct. 21, 2001 in New York City. Gary Hershorn / Pool / AP Photo

Heather Mills has reportedly ended her almost decade-long phone-hacking case against former U.K.-based tabloid News of the World after reaching a financial settlement with Rupert Murdoch-owned publishing group News Group Newspapers (NGN).

Back in 2011, Mills, the ex-wife of Paul McCartney — former co-songwriter, bassist and vocalist of The Beatles — followed in the footsteps of various other British stars, including Elton John, Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley, by seeking legal action against NGN.

The publisher was accused of breaching the privacy of dozens by allegedly hacking their personal cellphones and using the information as an unlawful source in hundreds of News of the World articles as well as many from The Sun, according to the Guardian.

Britain’s High Court heard that Mills and her sister, Fiona, had experienced “strange activity with their telephones” and that “journalists and photographers” would appear at “unexpected locations” the two had only discussed in private text conversations or emails, the BBC reported.

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Heather Mills, right, poses for photographers as she leaves central London’s Royal Courts of Justice with her sister Fiona following the announcement of the judgment of her divorce with Paul McCartney on Monday, March 17, 2008. Lefteris Pitarakis / AP Photo

As well as a “substantial payout,” Mills, 51, and her sister received a formal and “sincere” apology from NGN in the court hearing on Monday morning, according to the Guardian.

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“The defendants are here today, through me, to offer its sincere apologies to Mrs. Heather Mills and Ms. Fiona Mills for the distress caused to them by the invasion of their privacy by individuals working for or on behalf of the News of the World,” said an attorney for NGN during the hearing, according to CNN.

“The defendants accept that such activity should never have taken place and that it had no right to intrude into the private lives of Mrs. Heather Mills or Ms. Fiona Mills in this way,” the attorney added.

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The monetary amount offered to the Mills sisters was left undisclosed.

Heather Mills makes a statement to the press outside the Royal Courts of Justice following her divorce judgement in London, England on March 17, 2008. Andy Rain / EPA

Mills called the incident a “criminal, targeted smear campaign,” according to the Guardian. She claimed the tabloids had tarnished her reputation as well as those of her multiple animal rights and amputee charities, adding that the organizations’ “ability to raise funds” was severely impacted.

“My motivation to win this decade-long fight stems from a desire to obtain justice,” Mills told the High Court.

“Not only for my family, my charities and myself but for the thousands of innocent members of the public, who — like me — have suffered similar, ignominious, criminal treatment at the hands of one of the world’s most powerful media groups.”

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Mills further claimed, “Every time a copy of a News Group publication is purchased, we are lining the pockets of the perpetuators of these lies.”

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“I would urge everyone, when you pick up your daily paper today, to consider the integrity and motive of the publisher before believing what you read.”

In wake of her victory, Mills told the BBC: “The feeling that I have is one of joy and vindication.”

Before being married to McCartney, Mills was a successful model in the 1990s. She first received heavy media attention after she lost most of her left leg in a freak motorcycle accident in August 1993.

It wasn’t until McCartney, 77, and Mills filed for divorce, however, that she gained major relentless attention in the U.K. tabloids.

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Between 2006 and 2008 (the time spanning the couples’ separation and divorce), Mills was heavily criticized in the media, with many publications — namely News of the World and The Sun — accusing her of marrying McCartney simply for his money.

As reported by the Guardian, Mills claimed her life became unbearable after the couple’s divorce due to what she believed was constant defamation.

Paul McCartney performs live on stage at the O2 Arena during his Freshen Up tour on Dec. 16, 2018 in London, England. Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Prior to the phone-hacking scandal, News of the World’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, pleaded guilty in 2006 to plotting to intercept private text messages sent by members of the Royal Family.

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The publication’s reputation rapidly declined after the incident.

Half a decade later, after Mills and a number of other British stars came forward against NGN, alleging their phones were hacked, Murdoch, 88, decided it was time to end the publication.

News of the World printed its last paper on July 10, 2011.

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