| David Beckham with his special one-off award for the fastest- selling autobiography of all time. The Real Madrid star chose not to attend the prize-giving ceremony in London on Wednesday. Instead, he sent an acceptance speech via video from Spain. (AP)
How did the News of the World obtain text messages sent between David Beckham and his former PA, Rebecca Loos' Did they really have an affair or was Britain’s most famous footballer the victim of a classic tabloid honey-trap' How were the Beckhams snapped being lovey-dovey in the Alps' And what was publicist Max Clifford doing at The Sun’s offices'
Tabloid scoops increasingly end up mired in controversy, more often than not about how the story was obtained, from whom, and for how much.
The story that has Britain’s premier celebrity couple back on the front page (not forgetting pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7) is no exception. As a grateful red-top Fleet Street sinks its teeth into what for many of its readers is the biggest story for years, conspiracy theories are flying in all directions about what lies behind the headlines.
The News of the World revealed its scoop on Sunday under the headline “The story you thought you’d never read”.
Indeed it was. Whatever one might think of their style, David and Victoria Beckham have been seen as a wholesome antidote to the tawdry worlds of highly-paid footballers and pop stars.
The paper claimed that Beckham had a “torrid” affair with Loos in Madrid after feeling abandoned by his wife in their “troubled long-distance marriage”. The NoW printed a steamy exchange of mobile phone text messages between the pair.
With Loos’ brother helpfully confirming that the story was true and David Beckham describing it as “ludicrous” — but not denying it — the rest of the tabloid press immediately piled in. They followed Victoria and her family to Heathrow from where they were flying off for a holiday in the French Alps.
The Sun managed to get on the same plane to Geneva and followed the happy holidaymakers to Courcheval. They were joined in the town later that evening by the celebrity photographer Jason Fraser.
Fraser has photographed the Beckhams for years and has a good working relationship with them. When, the following morning, he was the only photographer to get pictures of the couple frolicking in the snow, the cry immediately went up that the whole thing was a carefully staged publicity stunt.
Both Fraser and the Beckham PR people say that they did not tip him off, although the latter admit they decided not to stop him doing his job once they realised he had found the couple.
Back in Britain, the story continued to rumble merrily on this week, oiled by further sex claims about Loos and talk of a second woman waiting in the wings with a similar story. One thing that was quickly clear was that Loos is co-operating with the NoW and is understood to have sold her story to the paper for £300,000.
Although he denies being involved, the hand of Clifford, the eminence grise of the kiss-and-tell market, has been seen by many in the story.
The purpose of his get-together with The Sun seemed clear when it grabbed some of its sister paper’s glory with new claims by Loos. In what amounted to a neat puff for an expected interview with her in the NoW this weekend, a “pal” revealed she ditched Beckham after learning he was sending similar texts to another woman.
The Beckhams’ PR handlers believe Clifford has been involved with Loos since January and, having kept his name out of the story to give it more credibility, will announce that he is now representing her and, most likely, the “second woman” too.
They go further, alleging that the man who first steered Loos in the direction of Fleet Street was the Beckhams’ former chauffeur, a Cuban with a chequered history named Delfin Fernandez.
It was Fernandez, they say, who late last year approached various Sunday tabloids with claims that at least four women had had affairs with Beckham. Perhaps unsure of Fernandez’s credibility, the papers held back.
Beckham camp insiders say Fernandez then joined forces with Clifford, who they say has never liked Victoria Beckham. They believe Clifford told Loos to tape all her calls to the footballer and keep all her texts. According to one rumour, a NoW reporter went so far as to sit with her as she sent her texts to Beckham.
But some close to the notoriously secretive NoW insist there is more to this story. They claim one of the paper’s staff has a contact who is able to monitor celebrities’ text messages (known in the trade as “shagging a phone”), and the NoW was targeting Beckham long before Loos came on the scene.
The Beckhams are now aware of the risks with mobiles. Their PR people no longer contact them by mobile phone. David Beckham uses different mobiles for different calls — family, football and his management — and changes them often, even favouring the pay-as-you-go tariff as it is the hardest to hack into.
An insider at his PR company said he believes the NoW “has been gunning for the Beckhams for some time”.