6 Mar 2014

Hacking trial: Coulson ‘completely trusted’ Rebekah Brooks

Former editor of the News of the World Rebekah Brooks tells a jury that Andy Coulson “completely trusted” her at the time the tabloid hacked the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks (Getty)

Under cross examination, prosecutor Andrew Edis, QC, questioned Brooks about her private relationship with Mr Coulson, which spanned six years.

Turning to the period in 2002 when Dowler’s phone was hacked, Mr Edis said: “At that time, were you talking to him in that confidential way?”

Ms Brooks said: “We were close friends, yes.”

Mr Edis continued: “If a deputy editor was committing a crime he might tell his editor if he really trusted her.

“Was that relationship in April 2002 such that Mr Coulson would completely trust you with any confidence at all?”

Almost inaudibly, Ms Brooks said: “Yes.”

The love affair between Ms Brooks and Mr Coulson was exposed in a draft letter Ms Brooks wrote in February 2004, extracts of which were read out at the Old Bailey courtroom.

Ms Brooks wrote to Coulson: “I confide in you, I seek your advice.”

The murdered schoolgirl’s voicemails were accessed for the newspaper in April 2002 while Ms Brooks was on holiday in Dubai, leaving Mr Coulson, her deputy, at the helm, the court has previously heard.

‘Work-related confidences’

At the beginning of the following year, January 2003, Mr Coulson became editor of NoW when Ms Brooks left the paper to join The Sun.

Asked if that intimate relationship meant they shared work-related confidences when she was at the Sun and he at the NoW, Ms Brooks said: “There must have been times when we did co-operate in the way you suggest that other editors had not before.

“It was the exception rather than the rule. The intimacy made it very difficult work-wise rather than easy.”

But she denied the affair went on continuously for six years, saying she was not a “Miss Havisham”, in reference to the elderly spinster character in Great Expectations.

She said: “In that time I had got back together with Ross (Kemp), got married, bought a house together, tried for a baby and the relationship had gone wrong.

“Andy Coulson had got on with his life. I had not been sitting there like Miss Havisham. I had gone out, got married, tried to have a baby and got on with my life.

“I just did not have an affair for six years. We were close. There’s just not a reason for me to lie.”

Previously, Ms Brooks has spoken of her “shock and horror” at discovering in July 2011 that Milly’s voicemails had been accessed under her editorship. The disclosure was instrumental in bringing about the downfall of the Sunday tabloid shortly afterwards.

Ms Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, and Mr Coulson, 46, of Charing, Kent, deny all the charges against them, including conspiracy to hack phones.

‘Cooked the books’

Ms Brooks also denied that she “cooked the books” to hide a £92,000 contract with a phone hacker when she was editor of the NoW.

In a lengthy exchange under cross-examination at the Old Bailey, Ms Brooks denied knowing about the deal with private investigator Mr Mulcaire.

It was allegedly concealed in weekly payments to his company and signed off by then managing editor Stuart Kuttner, the hacking trial was told.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said to Ms Brooks: “What I am suggesting to you is, it is now perfectly clear the books were cooked to prevent anybody investigating or finding out what Mr Mulcaire was doing.”

Ms Brooks said: “I did not cook any books.”

“Somebody cooked them,” Mr Edis said: “It should have been £92,000 and not 52 payments.”

Ms Brooks agreed the cumulative total “should have gone to me”, adding: “Because it was paid in relatively small weekly payments and the news desk obviously kept within their weekly spending limit, it was never brought to my attention.”

Mr Edis went on: “You do accept this contract was hidden?”

She replied: “I accept it should have come to me and Mr Kuttner.”

“Mr Kuttner approved every payment so he knew what was going on,” Mr Edis asserted.

“Did he ever tell you ‘I’m paying £1,769 to a company I have never heard of and I do not know what they do. Is that all right, boss?”‘

She replied: “No, he never, ever said anything like that to me.”

Mr Mulcaire’s contract was drawn up in 2001 when Ms Brooks was NoW editor, the court was told. He was caught and convicted of hacking phones in 2006, after she had left the Sunday tabloid, the jury heard.

Ms Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies conspiracy to hack phones, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Co-defendant Kuttner, 73, of Woodford Green, Essex, also denies the alleged hacking conspiracy. All seven defendants deny the charges against them.