The father of Josie Russell, the girl who survived a hammer attack in which her mother and sister were killed, is among a raft of new claimants suing News International for alleged phone hacking, bringing the total to more than 60.
Thirteen new legal writs, from claimaints including Sarah’s law campaigner Sara Payne and 7/7 hero Paul Dadge, were issued against Rupert Murdoch’s company on Monday, which followed 24 the week before.
Payne campaigned with the News of the World to change the law so that parents could obtain access to information about paedophiles following the murder of her eight-year-old daughter, Sarah.
Another writ was in the name of Paul Dadge, the man whose image was published across the world after he was photographed helping victims of the 7/7 tube bombings.
There were also writs from singer Dannii Minogue, Paul Burrell, Princess Diana’s former butler, and Shaun Russell, whose daughter Josie survived a hammer attack in which her mother and sister were killed in 1996.
According to people familiar with the situation, the sudden flurry of writs occurred because of a judicial cut-off point for initial claims.
It is thought the rash of lawsuits has been triggered by a deadline set by Mr Justice Vos to consider claims ahead of a January trial of a few test cases to determine how much News International should pay in damages to five of the victims.
Among the high-profile names in the 63 writs are the former Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell and politicians, including John Prescott, Simon Hughes, Denis MacShane, Chris Bryant, Mark Oaten, Tessa Jowell and George Galloway.
There are several actors in the list, such as Jude Law and Sadie Frost, and TV personalities including Steve Coogan and Ulrika Jonsson.
There are also writs in the names of George Best’s son, Calum, footballer Ashley Cole, rugby player Gavin Henson and jockey Kieren Fallon.
Some of the writs involve more than one person. For example, Charlotte Church is joined in her lawsuit by her mother, Maria, and stepfather James.
The overwhelming majority of the writs have been issued jointly against News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that published the now defunct News of the World, and Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who worked under contract for the Sunday tabloid.
However, one – by singer Cornelia Crisan – also names the former News of the World chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, and another of the paper’s former reporters as defendants in her claim.
It is the first phone-hacking lawsuit to target Thurlbeck. He was arrested and bailed in April for alleged phone hacking but has not been charged. He is suing News International for unfair dismissal.
Thurlbeck said: “As I said last week, the truth will out. But this will be in the law courts and at a public tribunal.”
The number and range of the claims has taken some legal observers by surprise. One source said it suggests that News International’s £20 ($30.9) million contingency fund to deal with legal claims will not be anywhere near enough to cover the final total.
One of the lawyers acting for some of the hacking victims, Mark Lewis, told Bloomberg News: “So far, fewer than 5 percent of the victims of Glenn Mulcaire have been notified.
“He was just one agent used by one paper. When the final tally takes place, we will see thousands of claims and more than one paper.”
Lewis said that, as the number of claimants grows, estimates that Murdoch’s company would need at least £100 ($154.54)m to settle such claims looks like “a serious underestimate”.
His logic is based on the fact that only 200 people have been identified from the 4,000 names said to be on documents that were seized from Mulcaire’s house in 2006, when he was arrested with the News of the World’s former royal editor Clive Goodman. Both Mulcaire and Goodman were jailed for phone hacking in early 2007.
About half of those initially identified have launched legal actions. So, if the same proportion of the full 4,000 were to sue, then News International’s liability, in terms of damages plus legal costs would be colossal.
News International has already offered to pay one of Lewis’s clients, the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, £3 ($4.64) million.
Media lawyer Niri Shan, of Taylor Wessing, said that victims who file claims before next year’s trial could benefit because “there is a level of uncertainty about what the court will award” in January. He added: “[News International parent company] News Corp may overpay to get rid of claimants.”
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.