Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling lambasted Britain’s press Thursday for invading her children’s privacy, telling an inquiry that a journalist even slipped a letter into her daughter’s schoolbag.
Rowling said another tabloid reporter contacted a headmaster over untrue claims that her daughter had upset classmates by telling them the boy wizard died in the last book in the bestselling series.
“I can’t put an invisibility cloaking device over myself and my house, nor would I wish to. But it is not normal for anyone, famous or not famous, for their address to be known to millions of newspaper readers,” she said.
Rowling was speaking to the judge-led inquiry into press ethics after actress Sienna Miller and former Formula One boss Max Mosley complained of abuse by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid.
The author’s voice cracked with anger and emotion as she said the letter from the journalist came in the first flush of success of her books, which have sold more than 400 million copies and spawned a lucrative film series.
“I unzipped her (her daughter’s) bag in the evening and among the usual letters from school and debris that any child generates, I found an envelope addressed to me. The letter was from a journalist,” she said.
“It’s very difficult to say how angry I felt that my five-year-old’s school was no longer a place of complete security from journalists.”
Rowling said she felt she was “under siege” and could not leave the house after the birth of her two subsequent children.
In another case, a journalist pretending to be from the tax office called her husband and got him to disclose his salary and address.
Earlier, “Alfie” star Miller said her emails and phones were hacked by the News of the World as part of a “web of surveillance” that led her to make paranoid accusations against her friends.
Miller, 29, the ex-girlfriend of Hollywood star Jude Law, was one of the first British celebrities to take action against the News of the World for phone-hacking.
She said that after the paper paid her damages, she finally saw the notes of its private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed for hacking in 2007.
“All my telephone numbers, the three that I changed in three months, my access numbers, PIN numbers, my password for my email that was actually used to later hack my email in 2008 was on these notes,” Miller said.
Miller said she became “intensely paranoid” and mistakenly accused family and friends of betraying her when information about her appeared in the press that had actually been obtained through voicemail hacking.
“I felt I was living in some sort of video game,” said Miller.
Mosley said News International, which owned the News of the World, tried to “destroy” him after he challenged a story about his involvement in a sadomasochistic orgy.
Mosley, 71, said he took News International to court after the paper published a front-page story in March 2008 entitled “F1 boss has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers.”
But after Mosley sued over the untrue Nazi claims and over the wider invasion of privacy, News International’s lawyers sent video of the incident to the International Motoring Federation (FIA) and invited its members to view it.
“I had the impression from the outset that as soon as I challenged the original story, that the entire resources of News International… were then deployed effectively to destroy me,” Mosley told the judge-led inquiry.
He said the story had a serious effect on his son, who died of a drug overdose in May 2009.
Mosley has won damages from News International in British and French courts for invasion of privacy over the story.
Police investigating phone-hacking made their first arrest on Thursday over computer hacking, detaining a 52-year-old man in Milton Keynes, northwest of London, “on suspicion of computer misuse act offences”, Scotland Yard said.
He was later bailed to return to a London police station in early December pending further enquiries.
Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry in July after it emerged the News of the World had targeted murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, a revelation that forced Murdoch to shut the tabloid down.
Dowler’s parents and the parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann have testified to the inquiry this week.