Fleet Street publishes corrections after Sir Paul McCartney’s ex-wife lodges complaint
Heather Mills’s one-woman fight against alleged victimisation by the British tabloids and hounding by the paparazzi appears to be bearing fruit, with four newspapers publishing corrections to stories they had written about her in the past two weeks. A fifth paper has written to her privately to apologise for its coverage.
In April 2008 Sir Paul McCartney’s former wife used a live appearance on GMTV to call on the British public to boycott the tabloids, claiming she had considered killing herself over their coverage. The Sun ran a front-page story questioning the former model’s sanity.
A flurry of stories detailed Mills’s allegedly outrageous behaviour and spending habits, but the tabloids had already cast Mills as a villain during her long and acrimonious divorce battle with McCartney.
Her quest to hold Fleet Street to account seemed like a fight she couldn’t win, but the present flurry of clarifications comes after Mills’s lawyers wrote to the Press Complaints Commission, highlighting half-a-dozen reports they claimed were inaccurate. Most of them were published in a two-week period immediately before the complaint was lodged.
They claimed, among other things, that Mills had undergone surgery to increase the size of her breasts, spent millions of pounds awarded as part of her divorce settlement on a swimming pool, and had started to date a friend, but all of those claims, and several more, have now been retracted. Mills’s complaints have prompted corrections from the Daily Express, which conceded on 21 January that it had been wrong to claim in an article last November that Mills’s daughter, Beatrice, “was to join her father Sir Paul singing on the forthcoming Shrek soundtrack”. The Daily Mirror ran a similar apology this week, correcting a story, also published in November 2008, which wrongly reported that Beatrice “was singing on Paul’s new album”, and the latest edition of its Sunday sister title carried a clarification on its letters page.
“Following our article on 16 November which stated that Heather Mills had recently had a third boob job, Heather Mills has asked us to point out that she had not had breast enlargement surgery,” it read. “Furthermore, we wish to clarify that Ms Mills has not spent £1m on a swimming pool and has not spent £6m on other properties.”
London Lite conceded on 8 January that it should not have implied Mills was romantically involved with Marc Sinden, after they were photographed visiting the Tate together, and apologised “for any distress caused”. Mills’s representatives also told the PCC she had been hounded by the photographer who took the shot and, although the paper denied he had been following her, it also “undertook to be more vigilant about the background of photographs of the complainant submitted to its picture desk”, according to a PCC ruling made this week. The article has also been removed from its website.
According to sources close to the PCC, the Daily Mail has written to Mills to apologise for another story. Mills is thought to have objected to several comment pieces that refer to her daughter.