Prince Harry has complained about his ‘awful’ time in Australia where he was bombarded with press attention despite spending much of his time ‘in the Outback’.
The Duke of Sussex spoke of his ‘suffocating’ time Down Under while on his gap year as a teenager during his case against the Mirror Group Newspapers – the British news organisation he accuses of phone hacking and unlawfully gathering information.
The royal alleges private investigators may have been paid to watch him during the visit in 2003 when he was 19.
He told the High Court in London on Tuesday about one article in which he was photographed at a beach in Noosa, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
‘It was a public beach, but not busy or popular, so I’m unclear how anyone had known we were there, to be in the right place at the right time to take photographs,’ Harry said in his witness statement.
‘I wasn’t aware of anyone taking photographs at the time.
‘The fact that a photographer turned up on a random beach in Noosa – where no other people were – is incredibly suspicious.’
Prince Harry has complained to the High Court about his ‘awful’ time in Australia where he was bombarded with press attention despite spending much of his time ‘in the outback’. (Pictured: Prince Harry in Sydney on September 23, 2003)
Harry said it would have been like a ‘needle in a haystack’ trying to find him.
Mirror’s lawyer Andrew Green said there might have been photographers ‘local or otherwise who were prepared to look for that needle in a haystack’.
Mr Green said everyone has ‘enormous sympathy’ for the press intrusion Harry had endured, ‘but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it was the result of unlawful activity’.
The duke replied: ‘It’s the unlawful means that make it even worse.’
Another article was published two months earlier, in September 2003, by The Mirror’s royal reporter Jane Kerr and titled ‘Harry is ready to quit Oz’.
The Duke of Sussex (pictured at the High Court in London) spoke of his ‘suffocating’ time Down Under while on his gap year as a teenager in his case against the Mirror Newspaper Group
Prince Harry said the article suggested he was leaving Australia due to the intense level of press he was receiving.
‘The article includes a comment from a Palace spokesperson expressing concern and disappointment about the treatment I was experiencing,’ his statement said.
‘I do recall that the Palace issued a statement because the situation in Australia was awful for me and there was supposed to be an agreement that once I had done the press call on arrival, I would be left to get on with my gap year in private.
‘I was a teenager, and this made it clear that there was nowhere in the world, not even the Australian outback, where I wouldn’t be hounded by the press or paparazzi.’
Prince Harry said his late grandmother had sent a senior aide to Australia to help amid ‘the level of intrusion in my life’, but without him knowing.
Prince Harry is seen after a polo match during his gap year in Australia in November 2003
Prince Harry is seen with former prime minister Tony Abbott and his family during a visit to Australia in October 2013, a decade after his gap year as a teenager
‘I only learnt recently that the Queen had asked one of her assistant private secretaries to fly out to Noosa and take a house down the road from where I was staying, without me knowing,’ he said.
‘She was concerned about the extent of the coverage of my trip and wanted someone I knew to be nearby, in case I needed support.’
Harry also questioned why the article had included a line that said he’d been staying inside ‘watching videos’ during his time in Australia to avoid the press.
‘I’m not sure how they knew what I was doing inside. The whole purpose of me avoiding the cameras was to avoid everyone knowing what I was doing at all times,’ he said.
‘It was suffocating. I was only in Australia with a couple of UK bodyguards, so this is the kind of thing I would have moaned about over the phone and in voicemails.’
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are seen here during their visit to Sydney in October 2018
The Duke of Sussex told the court there were allegedly two payment requests to a private investigator he believed related to the articles.
‘The first dated 24 September for £100 with the description “So that’s where you got your hair style from Harry” and the second dated 26 September for £450 with the description “Prince Harry watch Hunter Valley (Ellis)”,’ the court heard.
‘These suggest to me that Mirror Newspaper Group were using unlawful techniques to gather information about me, with the second payment seeming to me like the defendant was paying to have me watched.’
Harry rejected a suggestion the information was coming from royal aide Mark Dyer, while under cross-examination by Mr Green.
‘It doesn’t appear that way,’ the duke said.
‘I don’t accept that Mr Dyer was freely speaking to the press.’
Mr Green said to Harry ‘the information that you are alleging came from voicemail interception or unlawful information-gathering… in fact came from your minders’.
When asked if he accepted the information was not garnered by the Daily Mirror through phone hacking or unlawful ways, the royal replied: ‘You’d have to ask the journalists.’
Harry said Ms Kerr had submitted a statement saying she couldn’t either recall the story or its source in most cases.
Prince Harry will face more questioning on Wednesday.