Nikki Sanderson ‘lost some of her sparkle’, actress’s mother tells hacking trial

Actress Nikki Sanderson “lost some of her sparkle” because of the Mirror’s publisher, her mother has told the High Court as part of the actress’s phone hacking claim.

Hollyoaks star Ms Sanderson is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, claiming journalists at its 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 use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

Ms Sanderson, who played Candice Stowe in Coronation Street between 1999 and 2005, entered the witness box in the High Court in London on Friday to give evidence in her representative claim, part of a trial that has also featured the Duke of Sussex.

As well as the actress, several other people have given written evidence in support of her case – including her mother Judith Sanderson, ex-boyfriend Danny Young and former co-star Tina O’Brien – who have each previously settled their own claims with MGN.

In written evidence before the court, her mother said that when her daughter began working on the soap as a 15-year-old, she was “one of the nicest children you could wish for”.

Judith Sanderson said in her witness statement: “We were expecting some changes, but we weren’t expecting for Nikki to have to deal with grown-up issues.”

She said her daughter “very quickly” turned from being a “carefree, happy girl with her friends who she loved dearly into somebody who was very suspicious”.

Judith Sanderson said that her daughter was worried about going out because members of the public would attack her.

The drama school receptionist continued: “MGN wrote such horrible things about Nikki and she was not able to defend herself.

“In the end, Nikki was very depressed. She lost confidence and became very unsure of herself.

“She was paranoid as she felt like she had to watch out all the time, and she dreaded going out because of the reaction she got from the public.

“She lost some of her sparkle which, as her mum, was very painful to see.”

Judith Sanderson also said in her written evidence, which has not been challenged by MGN’s lawyers, that she did not know about phone hacking at the time “because I thought that things like that only happened to royalty and American movie stars”.

“I never saw Nikki as being mega; she’s not Hollywood, so I didn’t think they would have been interested in her as a normal person,” she added. “I still find it very strange.”

ITV Palooza 2021 – London
Fellow actress Tina O’Brien gave written evidence in support of Ms Sanderson’s case (Ian West/PA)

Fellow actress Ms O’Brien, who started playing Sarah Platt in Coronation Street in 1999, described Ms Sanderson as “very private” in her written evidence.

However, she said the press “made up their little show” about Ms Sanderson falsely being a “party girl”.

Ms O’Brien said in her witness statement: “It made her feel very uncomfortable to see these articles and not to know where the information was coming from or how to stop them.

“The result of all these doubts and suspicions was that Nikki was sometimes very lonely and she always had this low-level anxiety as she didn’t know what was coming next.

“It kind of feels like a toxic relationship; that we deserved that treatment from the media as we had gone into this job,” she added.

Ms O’Brien later said that while her own claim against MGN was settled in December 2016, she had not told anyone about it because of how “traumatic” it was.

“I felt like someone had taken my private diary and opened it up for the world to see,” Ms O’Brien added.

Ms Sanderson’s former partner Danny Young has also provided written evidence in support of the 39-year-old’s claim.

In his witness statement, Mr Young said that Ms Sanderson “was essentially used as tabloid fodder” during her time on Coronation Street and that the pair changed their behaviour because of press intrusion.

“I can recall going for dinner at random locations and the press would be there … We stopped going to certain places because we were paranoid about things ending up in the papers,” he said.

He also said that he could remember hearing “clicking noises” on his phone line and that he would miss voicemail messages he was left.

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.