Kerry Katona’s former fiance has said he was “robbed of a normal relationship” with her and “put through hell”, as he received a public apology from Mirror Group Newspapers over phone hacking.
David Cunningham, 43, was targeted by private investigators instructed by the publisher, which owns The Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and The Sunday People, in 2005 and 2006, including when he was in a relationship with the former Atomic Kitten star.
Mr Cunningham sued the publisher in 2018 and the following year Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) admitted liability for misuse of private information on five separate occasions.
The publisher agreed to pay Mr Cunningham “substantial damages” and his legal costs, and the case was formally settled at the High Court in London on Monday with an apology.
Mr Cunningham, an engineer, said in a statement after the hearing: “I was robbed of a normal relationship with Kerry, I believe because of MGN’s greed to make money.
“MGN treated me like a puppet as it was always pulling the strings. I felt as though I was on a game show, with MGN controlling what was going on.
“Even now, I am embarrassed that MGN knew the intimate details of my and Kerry’s lives. MGN had no right to publish the articles about me and Kerry.
“I have been put through hell and, by dragging out my claim, MGN has made me relive a very painful period of my life for no good reason.”
Mr Cunningham’s solicitor Ellen Gallagher said he had identified a number of articles published in MGN titles which he alleged contained his and Ms Katona’s private information.
She told the court: “Mr Cunningham claimed that he used his voicemail extensively and regularly exchanged voicemail messages with Ms Katona and his close friends and family during this time, and that the content of those voicemails included highly sensitive private information relating to Mr Cunningham’s and Ms Katona’s relationship, travel and medical information.
“Mr Cunningham asserted that the information contained in the defendant’s articles could only have been obtained through phone hacking and other unlawful means of information gathering.”
MGN admitted liability for misuse of private information in relation to three dates in January and February 2005, one in August 2005 and one in February 2006 by “instructing private investigators to unlawfully obtain private information about Mr Cunningham”, Ms Gallagher said.
She added: “Mr Cunningham was and remains shocked and upset at the extent of the defendant’s targeting of him, which included the defendant engaging private investigators to obtain private information about him and his associates.
“Mr Cunningham is pleased to confirm that he has accepted the defendant’s offer to resolve his claim on terms confidential between the parties, but which involves the defendant agreeing to pay substantial damages to Mr Cunningham as well as his legal costs of bringing the claim.”
Alexander Vakil, representing MGN, told the court: “The defendant offers its sincere apologies to Mr Cunningham for the damage and distress caused to him by the misuse of his private information over 15 years ago.
“The defendant acknowledges that Mr Cunningham’s private information should not have been obtained and used in the manner that it was.”
In his statement, Mr Cunningham added: “I would like to thank the entire team at Hamlins for their hard work and patience during this process.
“They have provided me with impeccable service, and I know I had the best possible lawyers for the job. In addition, I would like to give a special mention to Christopher Hutchings and Ellen Gallagher for their support and hard work – I would not be in the position I am now without them.”
In a statement issued after the hearing, Ms Gallagher said: “MGN had no right to misuse Mr Cunningham’s private information.
“MGN’s actions were abhorrent and there was plainly no reason for its newspapers to target Mr Cunningham other than because of his relationship with Kerry Katona.
“Unfortunately, the newspapers’ unlawful targeting of private individuals to obtain their private information and that of their associates, as in Mr Cunningham’s case, was commonplace.
“It is appalling MGN forced Mr Cunningham to the brink of trial before it saw sense and agreed terms of settlement and shocking that it has taken almost exactly four years for the case to be concluded.
“I am delighted for Dave that, eventually, MGN has been held to account for its unlawful acts.”
The apology to Mr Cunningham was read to the court at the outset of the latest hearing in long-running litigation against the publisher over unlawful information gathering at its titles.
The court heard that MGN, which has already settled a number of claims against it, is facing 109 live claims and there is due to be a trial at the High Court next year.