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Ex-soccer player Gascoigne tells court that tabloid phone hacking contributed to alcoholism

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LONDON — Almost four years after revelations of tabloid phone hacking shook the British media, a new court case has put it back in the spotlight.

Soap stars, a TV executive and an athlete's girlfriend have all testified that journalists' snooping left them feeling violated and despairing. On Wednesday, former England soccer player Paul Gascoigne told Britain's High Court that hacking had destroyed his life and is partly to blame for his alcoholism.

"I would like to trade my mobile phone in for a coffin because these guys have ruined my life," said Gascoigne, a star of England's national team in the 1990s. "I have no life."

Britain's phone-hacking scandal erupted in 2011 with the revelation that staff at the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World had listened to the cellphone voicemails of celebrities, politicians, crime victims and even a murdered teenager. The furor led to the closure of that paper and the arrests of dozens of journalists.

This time it's not Murdoch's tabloids that stand accused, but rival publications owned by Trinity Mirror PLC.

Victims' lawyer David Sherborne has said illegal eavesdropping was "rife" at the Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People newspapers for almost a decade from 1999.

Trinity Mirror has admitted hacking, and has set aside millions to compensate victims. A judge is hearing a lawsuit by eight claimants to determine the amount of damages hacking targets will receive.

In court, the claimants have described how phone hacking poisoned their relationships with friends, family and colleagues.

Actor Shane Richie said he didn't speak to a co-star on "EastEnders" for five years "because we both thought we were selling each other down the river with stories, which it turned out of course wasn't true."

Gascoigne, his voice shaking with emotion, testified that hacking left him frightened and paranoid, making him think friends and family were betraying him.

"I couldn't speak to anybody. I was scared to speak to anybody ... my parents, my family and kids. It was just horrendous," said the 47-year-old, who has battled drug and alcohol addiction for years.

"And people can't understand why I became an alcoholic."

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PHOTO: Former soccer star Paul Gascoigne arrives at the High Court in London, Wednesday March 11, 2015. Gascoigne told Britain's High Court that tabloid snooping ruined his life and is partly to blame for his alcoholism. Almost four years after revelations of illegal eavesdropping shook the British media, a new court case has put it back in the spotlight. This time it’s not Rupert Murdoch's tabloids that stand accused but rival publications owned by Trinity Mirror PLC. (AP Photo/PA, Stefan Rousseau) UNITED KINGDOM OUT  NO SALES  NO ARCHIVE
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