Brooks and Coulson were lovers, court told
Prosecutors allege former News of the World editor Rebecca Brooks and deputy editor Andy Coulson were having a secret affair when the paper published stories sourced from hacked voicemails. Nick Miller reports.PT1M17S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2wmlu 620 349 November 1, 2013
London: The phone hacking trial has taken a tabloid-style turn, with claims that star defendants Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson were lovers.
Brooks, then editor of the News of the World, and Coulson, her deputy editor and successor, were in the midst of their affair when a private detective hacked the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler on the NOTW’s behalf, a court has heard.
You are my very best friend, I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you, we laugh and cry together.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis, QC, continued his opening statement to the jury in the London trial on Thursday.
Rebekah Brooks, former News International chief executive, was having an affair with former News of the World editor Andy Coulson while overseeing phone hacking and bribery, according to the prosecution's Andrew Edis QC. Photo: AFP Photo
He detailed some of the phone hacks that became stories in the News of the World – concerning royals, politicians and celebrities – and argued that Brooks and Coulson must have known how the information in the stories was obtained.
He said their affair was uncovered by police who searched Brooks’ home and found a letter – “intelligent, elegant and well-written” – she wrote to Coulson in 2004.
“You are my very best friend, I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you, we laugh and cry together,” Mrs Brooks wrote. “Without our relationship in my life I am not sure I will cope.”
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was someone Rebekah Brooks wrote was her 'very best friend' in a letter read to the court. Photo: Reuters
It demonstrated that “what Mr Coulson knew, Mrs Brooks knew too … that’s the point”, Edis said.
“[They] are charged with conspiracy and, when people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is how well did they know each other? How much did they trust each other?”
He said it was highly likely they were exchanging confidences, including details of phone hacking carried out by, and on behalf of, the newspaper.
By 2004 they had been having an affair for at least six years, but it appeared Coulson was trying to break it off, causing Brooks “a lot of grief”. Both journalists were married to other people at that time – Brooks since 2002 and Coulson since 2000.
Edis said their affair covered much of the period in which their newspaper was publishing stories sourced from hacked voicemails.
In 2005 Brooks told a lunch companion that a story about a row between Paul McCartney and Heather Mills (headlined "Macca throws Heather’s Ring out of Hotel Window – Exclusive") was obtained by phone hacking, Edis said.
Much of the evidence on Thursday was concerned with private detective Glenn Mulcaire, who has already pleaded guilty to phone hacking.
The court heard that Mulcaire hacked the phones of Mail on Sunday reporters. “In the dog-eat-dog world of journalism, in the frenzy to find out this story … you hack the competition,” Edis said. It was a “cheap and easy” way to find out what they were chasing, and prepare a spoiler story.
Mulcaire also hacked the voicemail of Milly Dowler when she disappeared in 2002, the court heard, on the instructions of NOTW news editor Neville Thurlbeck – who has also pleaded guilty.
The next edition of NOTW contained direct quotes from the missing schoolgirl’s voicemail, Edis said.
He said Brooks, Coulson and another accused, former NOTW managing editor Stuart Kuttner, were “criminally involved” in the hacking of Dowler’s phone.
Brooks was on holiday in Dubai when the Dowler hack occurred and Coulson was editing the newspaper, however the two were in regular contact, which increased as the paper’s deadline approached. Brooks also called the newsdesk.
Edis said it would be “simply incredible” if both editors did not know how the information in their newspaper’s stories on Dowler was obtained.
The court also heard about the hacking of phones associated with former home secretary David Blunkett, while Coulson was editor. The News of the World used the voicemails to source a story that he was having an affair with a married woman, Edis said.
The next day The Sun newspaper – edited at the time by Brooks – picked up the story and named the woman, then reported she was pregnant. Both editors knew the facts to be true because of hacked voicemail messages, Edis said. The court heard a tape recording of Mulcaire "blagging" (or getting for free through guile) a voicemail password. They saw emails where he passed voicemail PINs to NOTW staff, so they could do their own voicemail hacks.
He kept detailed notes, which revealed names such as then-minister Tessa Jowell and her husband David Mills.
Another defendant, Ian Edmondson, former news editor of the paper, also hacked Tessa Jowell’s voicemail using information provided by Mulcaire, Edis said.
Mulcaire also targeted the private messages of deputy PM John Prescott, via his advisers’ mobiles.
An email detailing the hacking of Prescott was “the email that closed the News of the World”, Edis said.
He told the court Mulcaire also hacked Lord Frederick Windsor, the son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent – and that the police found tape recordings of some of his voicemail messages.
He said Coulson would have asked “the editor’s question: how do I know this is true?”
Mulcaire was on a £92,000 ($155,000) exclusive retainer, boosted to £100,000 a year under Coulson, Edis said.
He was also given spot payments, and worked on a weekly basis for the royal editor Clive Goodman – another of the defendants in the trial.
Edis said the paper’s managing editor Stuart Kuttner signed off £413,000 in payments to Mulcaire between 2000 and 2007 and “must have known” what the money was being spent on.
And he said Brooks was actively involved in the paper’s budgets and kept tight control over costs and yet had never apparently questioned the payments to Mulcaire.
In fact the payments continued after his arrest and only stopped with his first phone hacking conviction in 2007.
All defendants have denied the charges against them.
The trial continues.