Former Daily Mirror and News of the World editor Piers Morgan once told Jeremy Paxman how to access voicemail messages, the Leveson Inquiry heard yesterday.
Newsnight anchorman Mr Paxman said he attended a lunch at Mirror headquarters in Canary Wharf in September 2002 where Mr Morgan teased Ulrika Jonsson about her relationship with former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, saying he knew about a conversation they had.
Mr Paxman said Mr Morgan explained to him how to access people’s phone messages after teasing the Swedish television presenter about the conversation.
“He turned to me and said ‘Have you got a mobile phone?’ I said yes and he asked if there was a security setting on the message bit of it. I didn’t know what he was talking about.
“He then explained the way to get access to people’s messages was to go to the factory default setting and press either 0000 or 1234 and that if you didn’t put on your own code, his words, ‘You’re a fool’.”
The BBC Newsnight presenter said he remembered the lunch for two reasons: he wondered why he had been invited and because of what Morgan said.
“Mr Morgan was teasing Ulrika that he knew what had happened in a conversation between her and Sven-Goran Eriksson,” said Paxman. “I don’t know if he was repeating a conversation he had heard or he was imagining this conversation.
“To be fair to him I should imagine both possibly because he probably was imagining it.”
Paxman said Morgan put on a funny Swedish voice. “It was a rather bad parody.”
He added: “I don’t know if he was making this up, making up the conversation. But it was clearly something he was familiar with and I wasn’t.
“I didn’t know that this went on.”
The veteran presenter said Morgan’s treatment of Jonsson was close to bullying.
“I didn’t like it,” he added.
Morgan, who now has his own chat show for CNN in America, appeared by video link at the hearing in December last year.
At the time he told the inquiry he “did not believe” he had listened to illegally-obtained voice messages, and had “no reason to believe” hacking was going on at the Daily Mirror under his leadership.
Mr Morgan did, however, tell Lord Justice Leveson he had once listened to a voicemail message left for Heather Mills – ex-wife of Sir Paul McCartney but declined to name the source.
Giving evidence in January, Ms Mills said she had threatened legal action against the Mirror in 2006 over a story relating to a message left on her phone and said she had “never, ever” authorised Mr Morgan to listen to her voicemail.
Prime Minister David Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry in response to disclosures the News of the World hacked murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone after she vanished in 2002. .