News center
The company is seeking top-notch candidates.

Nikki Sanderson had 'hair set on fire' after tabloids 'painted her as promiscuous', Prince Harry hacking trial told

May 20, 2023

After Prince Harry's time in the witness box at the High Court, Hollyoaks and former Coronation Street star Nikki Sanderson has also begun giving evidence. The pair are two of four representative claimants suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over alleged unlawful information gathering.

Entertainment reporter @gemmapeplow

Saturday 10 June 2023 08:07, UK

Soap star Nikki Sanderson suffered abuse as a young woman over tabloid stories insinuating she was "promiscuous", the High Court has heard - including people "screaming insults" and one incident when her hair was "set on fire".

The actress, who now stars in Hollyoaks but rose to fame as a teenager when she landed the role of Candice Stowe in Coronation Street in 1999, followed Prince Harry in the witness box to give evidence against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror.

Answering cross-examination questions on Friday, Ms Sanderson, 39, at one point became emotional and said reliving details of stories written about her had been "traumatic".

She also accused MGN of "gaslighting" in their denial of her allegations.

Mirror hacking allegations court case - as it happened

It is alleged that journalists at MGN titles - which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People - were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called "blagging" or gaining information by deception, and the use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

Ms Sanderson, who starred in Coronation Street from 1999 to 2005, alleges the information in some 37 articles, published between 2003 and 2009, was obtained through forms of unlawful information gathering.

MGN says her claim has been brought too late and denies unlawful activity save for four occasions in 2004 and 2005, when its journalists instructed private investigators to obtain information about her.

Writing about the impact tabloid intrusion had on her life in a witness statement, Ms Sanderson described "stories insinuating that I was promiscuous" as "very distressing".

One story made her out to be "bed-hopping and sleeping with three people in one week", she said, which was "so far removed from the truth" - but the lines between her and her TV soap character had been "blurred".

Key points from witness statements

Statements from Nikki Sanderson's mum, ex-boyfriend, and actress Tina O'Brien have also been submitted in support of her case

Coronation Street star Ms O'Brien compares media interest to "toxic relationship"

Ms Sanderson's mum tells how her daughter became paranoid and "lost some of her sparkle"

Ex-partner Danny Young, who also starred in Corrie, says being a famous actor "is not all it's cracked up to be"

'People would elbow me, push me'

Describing "the backlash" from the public, Ms Sanderson wrote: "I was subjected to both mental and physical abuse.

"People would shout at me in the street, calling me a whore, a slag or a slut.

"People would elbow me, push me and, on one occasion, a group of girls even set my hair on fire."

This happened in a nightclub toilet, she said.

Ms Sanderson said: "I was washing my hands and I smelt burning. I looked down and they had set fire to the back of my hair."

She also described another occasion when she felt forced to barricade herself in a toilet at a bowling alley after being threatened by a group of girls.

"This kind of thing was constant," she said.

'Like serial killer dramas'

In her statement, Ms Sanderson recalls paparazzi photographers following her to take pictures while she was on holiday, describing their actions as "creepy, like those things you see on serial killer dramas".

She also criticises MGN for "hiring random men to follow" her.

"I was a young girl at the time… they could have done anything to me," she wrote.

In court, she said she felt like she could not "go places without someone watching".

Ms Sanderson claims MGN's alleged "illegal activities" have had a "huge impact" on her life and left her paranoid about sharing information, even with friends and family.

At one point, she suspected a Coronation Street press officer of leaking information about her, she wrote in her witness statement - something she feels "awful" about now.

Read more on the case against MGN:Ex-Mirror royal correspondent gives evidence Harry's moment in court is over - was he or the King right?

'I said that and I stand by that'

She uses the word "abuse" several times throughout her statement, saying at the end that she does not do so lightly.

"These people were in positions of power," she wrote. "I was attacked by people who were more powerful than me."

"I said that and I stand by that," she told Andrew Green KC, who is representing MGN in court.

Asked by Mr Green about this part of her statement in court, the actress replied: "The behaviour has been horrific, the gaslighting I feel has gone on with me. The fact that I'm having to do this today is traumatic."

Mr Green then asked the actress: "If you consider your treatment by MGN to be tantamount to child abuse... why were you giving an interview to the Daily Mirror in 2019?"

Ms Sanderson said it was a planned piece for Valentine's Day and later told the court there was a difference with prepared interviews which were under her "control".

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Mr Green showed the court instances where Ms Sanderson would willingly speak to the media.

He said that, "entirely fairly", the actress needed media publicity "in order to continue to promote" her career.

He also showed the court features including one showing Ms Sanderson posing in lingerie for a men's magazine.

In her witness statement, Ms Sanderson said it was not "fair" and added "insult to injury" for MGN to rely on press stories and photo shoots she consented to.

Working on a TV soap you "have an obligation to do certain interviews, television programmes and photoshoots", she wrote.

"There is a massive difference between something you are aware of and in control of versus the defendant hacking into my voicemail messages against my will or hiring people to follow me and take photographs of me."

Evidence is 'weak', MGN argues

Ms Sanderson's barrister David Sherborne previously told the court that the actress only became aware she had a potential claim against MGN after chatting with her Hollyoaks co-star Gary Lucy.

The actress had suspected friends, people working on Coronation Street, and members of the public of selling stories about her, and therefore "didn't suspect unlawful methods being used" until she spoke to Mr Lucy about it in 2019, Mr Sherborne said.

In response on Friday, Mr Green told the court that the evidence in Ms Sanderson's case is "weak" and MGN does "not accept that it establishes a case of voicemail interception" nor that it shows "systemic hacking" of her phone.

Read more: The people named in Harry's witness statement Harry's evidence - watch reconstructions of key moments

Be the first to get Breaking News

Install the Sky News app for free

The publisher has denied that 35 of the 37 articles involved phone hacking or unlawful information gathering, with one article being not admitted.

MGN has said Ms Sanderson's claim has been brought too late, but "unreservedly apologises" over four payments made to private investigators which it admits are evidence of instructions to unlawfully obtain her private information.

Prince Harry and Ms Sanderson are two of four representative claimants whose evidence against MGN is being heard at the High Court, alongside Coronation Street actor Michael Turner, known professionally as Michael Le Vell, and comedian Paul Whitehouse's ex-wife Fiona Wightman.

Hollyoaks Coronation Street Prince Harry Mirror hacking allegations court case - as it happened Key points from witness statements • • • • 'People would elbow me, push me' 'Like serial killer dramas' Read more on the case against MGN:Ex-Mirror royal correspondent gives evidence Harry's moment in court is over - was he or the King right? 'I said that and I stand by that' Evidence is 'weak', MGN argues Read more: The people named in Harry's witness statement Harry's evidence - watch reconstructions of key moments