Actor Steve Coogan leaving the Leveson inquiry earlier todayCredit: Sean Dempsey/PA
Steve Coogan has accused the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and showbiz reporter Rav Singh of setting him up with in "sociopathic" sting to reveal details of an extra-marital affair.
Coogan told the Leveson inquiry today how Singh – who he said was a "casual friend" – had phoned him in 2004 to bargain with with the actor over a piece the News of the World intended to run about the affair.
“I was in a relationship that was breaking up because of an affair that I'd had," Coogan told the inquiry.
"He [Singh] called me and said he wanted to help me.
“I begged him not to put in some of the more lurid details of the story, and he said if I confirmed certain other aspects of the story in return he would guarantee that the more lurid details would be left out.
“I confirmed certain details for him and he gave me his word that the more embarrassing part of the story, which I knew would upset my then wife and her family, would be omitted.”
But according to Coogan, his manager later received a phone call from Coulson informing him that the entire conversation with Singh had been recorded and the tabloid intended "to put everything in the paper".
"Rav Singh giving me his word was just a ruse to get me to speak on the phone so they could record me ... to record the whole phone call so they could cover themselves," Coogan said.
He called the move a "dispassionate, sociopathic act", and echoed the Labour MP Tom Watson in likening the News of the World to a mafia organisation.
Coogan also told the inquiry that Singh had called him two years earlier, in 2002, to warn him that he was about to be the subject of a separate sting also involving Coulson.
According to the actor, Singh explained that a girl was going to call him from Coulson's office to "try and entice me to talk about intimate details of her and my life" and that Coulson would be listening and recording the call.
Singh reportedly advised Coogan to obfuscate so as not to give the tabloid anything to print, but asked him not to reveal over the phone that he had been tipped off.
He did so and no story was run by the paper as a result of that attempt.
Like other witnesses so far this week, Coogan also spoke about being shown the notebooks of the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire by the Metropolitan police and revealed some of the details he found relating to him.
The actor said that the notes contained information about how much he had withdrawn from a cashpoint at a specific time, as well as details of a hotel bill, the telephone number of a girl he was seeing at the time, and his own mobile phone account password and account number.
He also said that around the same time as the incidents recorded by Mulcaire – in 2005 – he had received a call from his phone provider to inform him that someone had contacted the company impersonating him.
The columnist Joan Smith told the inquiry yesterday that she was "amazed by the detail" in Mulcaire's notes when information about her whereabouts – including flight times – were shown to her by the police
Coogan told the inquiry that he had never sought attention from the press and tried to avoid it. He had never, he said, "entered a Faustian pact".
"There are certain celebrities that use the press to raise their profile," he said, "and exploit the press for their own ends".
"They are in the fame game. Those people have entered a Faustian pact. I never set myself up as a paragon of virtue, or a model of morality."
He stressed at the end of his testimony that both he and Hugh Grant were not appearing at the inquiry in order to gain attention either.
"Of course there is a personal element to it, but it's not just about us it's about other people.
"This is not the Steve and Hugh show.
"We are doing this, reluctantly, because someone has to represent all those other people who don't have the stomach for it."