Nikki Sanderson's 'hair set on fire after Mirror hacked her phone', Harry hacking trial told

Former Coronation Street actress Nikki Sanderson (left) arrives at the Rolls Buildings in central London for her phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN). A number of high-profile figures have brought claims against MGN over alleged unlawful information gathering at its titles. Picture date: Friday June 9, 2023. (Photo by Lucy North/PA Images via Getty Images)
Former Coronation Street actress Nikki Sanderson arrives at the Rolls Buildings in London for her phone hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Actress Nikki Sanderson's hair was once set on fire as a result of a public backlash from media stories linked to alleged phone hacking, a court has heard.

Sanderson said stories suggesting she was promiscuous meant she was "subjected to both mental and physical abuse" when out.

Former Coronation Street star Sanderson, 39, is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, claiming journalists at its titles - The Daily and Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People - were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

Her case is one of four representative claims being heard in London, alongside similar claims brought by the Duke of Sussex - who appeared in court this week - as well as Coronation Street actor Michael Turner, known professionally as Michael Le Vell, and comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman.

In her witness statement on Friday, as she began giving evidence, Sanderson said: "When MGN published stories about me insinuating that I was promiscuous it was very distressing.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 03: Nikki Sanderson attends The British Soap Awards 2023 on June 03, 2023 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
Nikki Sanderson attending the British Soap Awards last week. (Getty Images)

"Being made out to be bed-hopping and sleeping with three people in one week, as The Mirror suggested [in a November 2004 piece titled "Nikki’s Fun & Games with Man Utd Star"] was so upsetting as it was so far removed from the truth. The backlash from the public was also very difficult and 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 particular incident happened in the toilets of a club and the group of girls had been bothering me all night. I had gone to the toilets on my own and I was washing my hands and I smelt burning. I looked down and they had set fire to the back of my hair. Fortunately, I wasn’t wearing any hair product, otherwise, my hair would have gone up in flames.

"I can recall another occasion in a bowling alley toilet where a group of girls were threatening me with all sorts of horrible things. I barricaded myself in the toilet to escape them and luckily one of my friends came in and got me out of there, but I remember being so upset.

"This kind of thing was constant."

MGN says Ms Sanderson’s 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.

Read more: Prince Harry hacking trial: The 33 stories at the centre of his case

Andrew Green KC, for the publisher, told Sanderson on Friday that MGN “unequivocally apologises” to her for those incidents.

Sanderson, who played Candice Stowe in Coronation Street between 1999 and 2005, began giving evidence on Friday.

In a witness statement prepared for the trial, Sanderson said MGN was “continuing” the abuse through its conduct of the litigation since she filed her claim in 2020.

She said: “I have used the word ‘abuse’ a number of times throughout this statement, and I do not use it lightly, but the fact is these people were in positions of power and I was a child and a young female, and I was attacked by people who were more powerful than me.

“I did nothing to deserve this treatment.”

Watch: Harry had ‘huge amount of paranoia’ after press intrusion, court told

Sanderson, who has played Maxine Minniver in the Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks since 2012, added: “The last three years have been extra victimisation and have caused so much more anger, hurt and frustration.

“MGN abused me when I was a child and they continue to abuse me now by dragging this out.”

Asked by Green about this part of her statement in court on Friday, the actress told the court: “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.”

But Green asked her: “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?”

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”.

The actress is due to continue giving evidence on Monday.