For years there have been allegations about what methods were used by
some journalists to get stories including hacking into messages on
mobile phones. But have such methods been used more recently'
After inquiries triggered by PM, the man who speaks for the parents of
Madeleine McCann, who was abducted from a Portuguese resort almost four
years ago, believes someone attempted to access information about his
mobile phone account and his voicemail. There's no evidence to
suggest who may have been responsible but Clarence Mitchell is to speak
to the police about it. John Mennell (sp?) reports.
The hunt for Madeleine. Police widen the search and Interpol join
Madeleine McCann disappeared from a holiday apartment in Portugal in May
Please, please do not hurt her. Please don't scare her.
There was intense media interest.
(Sounds of journalists calling to Kate McCann)
The story continued to make headlines for months.
The parents of Madeleine McCann are to leave Portugal this morning'
This is a typical piece of coverage. This was in late July, 2008
just after Kate and Gerry had their arguido status lifted.
Clarence Mitchell became Kate and Gerry McCann's spokesman so was seen
by journalists as a key to potential new angles.
I had journalists, some of them almost in tears on certain days, saying
they were under such pressure from their news desks they needed a front
page splash by four o'clock that afternoon. And if I didn't get it
to them the implication was they would almost be fired.
In September last year I learnt of talk that the McCann story may have
been a possible target of phone hacking so I contacted Clarence
I was always concerned, if some journalists were up to this sort of
thing, that I might be a target but I had no proof. The BBC
through yourself approached me so I approached my phone company,
Vodafone, and asked them to go back over my records which is what
They were very good. They said they could look back. They
don't keep all of the records, each and every single phone call, I think
for more than a year. However, what they were able to do was go
back much further on their customer service number and there are records
for that going back several years.
And you've been provided with this document which is, er, quite a hefty
thing, thirty', thirty-six pages long'
Yes, these are the records of all calls regarding my number to Vodafone
Customer Services. It details everything from bill payments,
payments received or any queries or problems you have with your phone.
The phone company, Vodafone, did flag up three entries here. They
highlighted them in yellow.
That's right. The first ones were on the 29th of February, 2008.
The operator lists it saying a gentleman had called wishing to check the
phone as he gets calls each night from the number and wanting
information and is, quotes, 'a witness on the CID trial for McCanns'.
Well that doesn't make sense. It certainly wasn't me that made
that call. I would never use that phraseology and there is, there
was no such thing as a CID trial for the McCanns. Its ridiculous.
That appears to me to be a blatant attempt to get information about
whose number it was and what was happening. Thankfully the
operator didn't give him any.
And just to be clear, this was somebody phoning about your account but
it was not you. You did not make this call.
The entries that Vodafone have flagged up I know absolutely that I did
not make these calls to Vodafone Customer Service.
And if we turn over the page?
We go on a few months to July, 2008 and again bear in mind that this was
at the height of the Madeleine story when it was receiving front page
coverage virtually every day in the tabloids. This is a longer
entry and basically it claims that the person ringing, not me I stress,
had received a text message claiming that a third party had been trying
to access their voicemail. But there was nothing on the account
showing that. Well that's because it isn't true. I never got
such a text. Somebody else is again fishing for information here.
The Vodafone operator believed they were talking to me as the account
holder. That's why they listed it as customer.
It seems because there are no records of calls made to or from your
phone number any more, it's impossible to tell who did this.
It is impossible to state with any accuracy who was behind these calls.
I do know they weren't me. It would be naive of me given the
situation I was in at the time and the amount of journalistic inquiry
and traffic that I was receiving on that number. It would be naive
of me to think that it wasn't journalistic in its nature. There's
no other reason for anybody else to try and get into my number. I
am assuming that it was journalistic in its nature but I have no way of
knowing who, why or what they were doing it for. I know the
journalists in Portugal with us and back in Britain at that time were
under immense pressure to deliver fresh angles, fresh stories every day.
This may, I stress may, have been another attempt just to get under the
skin of the story.
Of course, there was an ongoing police investigation at this time.
Is it possible that the police may have attempted to do this'
I don't think they would have done it that way. I'm sure they have
legal routes to getting hold of that material and will work closely with
the phone companies if required in any particular situation. I,
er,,, No, I'm categoric about this. This was cack-handed,
pretty low-level, amateurish attempt and thankfully, as I say, Vodafone
did the job and stalled it.
How has this left you feeling'
Well I'm angry and I'm shocked by it but not surprised.
What have Kate and Gerry McCann said to you about what has happened to
Well, I'm afraid they've got a very dim view of the British press,
certainly some sections, so there's a sort of world weariness about
this. Yes of course, they're angered by this and will be upset but
again like myself in some respects not surprised that somebody could be
so stupid as to possibly try this.
Clarence Mitchell talking to our reporter John M?