On September 27, 1998, film star couple Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson announce they will donate a five-figure libel payout to a memorial fund for the victims of the Omagh bomb massacre that occurred in Northern Ireland on August 15, 1998, killing 29 people.
Neeson and Richardson win £50,000 ($85,370) in libel damages over newspaper allegations that their marriage is on the rocks. The couple sues the Daily Mirror publishers MGN for libel and malicious falsehood after the tabloid paper claimed Natasha Richardson was filing for divorce behind her husband’s back and that their marriage was a sham.
The story is published in August 1998 in London, Scotland, the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland – where Neeson was born and where his family still live.
A High Court judge in London hears that the actors – married for four years with two young sons – were shocked by the allegations which caused “an explosion of publicity worldwide.”
Neeson, who is nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film Schindler’s List, is told about the article by his mother. She phones him in great distress from Northern Ireland after seeing the headlines while out shopping.
The actors’ solicitor, Mark Thomson, tells Mr. Justice Gray that the couple then spent several days attempting to deal with the destructive aftermath of the articles denying the allegations to friends and family.
Mirror Group Newspapers accepts “unequivocally” that the story is entirely false and apologises for the embarrassment, hurt and distress caused to the couple. “We entirely accept that there is absolutely no truth in the allegations about Mr. Neeson and Miss Richardson and that the allegations should never have been published. We apologise unreservedly to Mr. and Mrs. Neeson and their family for the distress and embarrassment they have been caused. We have agreed not to repeat the allegations and to pay substantial damages to them, which they are donating to the victims of the Omagh bombing.”
The information came from a source thought to be reliable, but it was clearly a mistake for the reporter to rely on that source, says solicitor Martin Cruddace.