Harry and Meghan author Omid Scobie tells High Court phone hacking trial ‘I’m not couple’s mouthpiece’
A Royal expert who authored a book on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle insisted he is not the couple’s “mouthpiece”, as he gave High Court evidence accusing Piers Morgan of knowing about phone hacking.
Omid Scobie co-authored 2020’s best-selling book on Harry and Meghan, titled Finding Freedom, detailing the early years of their romance and break from the Royal Family.
The book, a worldwide hit, was written in collaboration with people close to the couple while Meghan herself offered assistance to the authors.
However Mr Scobie, giving evidence in the court, insisted he does not “have a vested interest” in helping the Prince and his wife in their legal battles against the media.
“I don’t have his phone number, I have never socialised with him”, he said, of Harry.
“I’m literally a member of the press who has tried to do my job for years.”
Mr Scobie said by giving evidence he is “giving ammunition” to those who want to portray him as the “couple’s friend, mouthpiece, and cheerleader”.
“What I’m doing here is I’m actually making my life more difficult”, he added.
Mr Scobie said he and co-author Carolyn Durand talked to Jason Knauf, the Royal couple’s communication secretary, as they were writing the book. But they were unaware of the extent to which he had checked matters with Harry and Meghan.
“I would have had no knowledge of conversations betwen Jason and the people he worked for”, he said.
In his witness statement, Mr Scobie said he did work experience as a journalism student at the Daily Mirror in 2002 when Morgan was the paper’s editor.
Prince Harry is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) alongside soap stars Michael Le Vell and Nikki Sanderson, and comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman.
The four claimants allege widespread unlawful newsgathering at MGN titles the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and The People over the course of 20 years.
Mr Scobie recalled an alleged incident during his work experience stint, at the desks of the Mirror showbiz reporters who produced the 3AM gossip column.
“The editor of the newspaper, Piers Morgan, came over to talk with someone (I do not recall who) about a story in the works on Kylie Minogue and her (on-off, at the time) boyfriend James Gooding”, said Mr Scobie.
“Mr Morgan was asking how confident they were in the reporting and was told that the information had come from voicemails.
“I recall being surprised to hear this at the time, which is why it stuck in my mind.”
Mr Scobie, 41, who is the executive editor at Yahoo! News, editor-at-large at Harper’s Bazaarand a royal contributor for ABC News and Good Morning America, said he was “not totally shocked” by the alleged incident with Morgan because he had himself been asked to hack phones at another MGN title.
“While at the Sunday People earlier in the year, I recall being given by a journalist a list of mobile numbers followed by a detailed verbal description of how to listen to voicemails, as if it were a routine newsgathering technique”, he said.
“I was taken aback by what seemed completely immoral and I never carried out the task.”
Mr Scobie said he told Prince Harry’s lawyers about his recollections, and researched online a May 2002 showbiz story about Kylie with the headline “Can’t get you out of my bed”.
He said he has been shown a £170 invoice for “extensive enquiries” into “K Minogue” with a private investigator firm he says is “known to have been involved in phone hacking”.
Mr Scobie told the court a showbiz reporter also had Kylie’s phone number in his palm pilot.
Morgan said last week that he denies any allegations of knowledge of phone hacking, calling it “lazy journalism”.
The trial continues.