Senior executives at the News of the World commissioned the specialist phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire to work on a series of stories about paedophiles and murdered children but never told their editor that they had done so, an Old Bailey jury heard on Tuesday.
In her twelfth day in the witness box, Rebekah Brooks agreed with prosecuting counsel Andrew Edis QC that, as an editor, her “agenda” had focused on paedophiles and sex offenders, but she repeatedly said that she had never heard Mulcaire’s name until he was arrested in August 2006, three years after her editorship.
Edis asked her about notes kept by Mulcaire which suggested that the paper’s assistant editor, Greg Miskiw, and four other journalists had told him to locate convicted child sex offenders from the summer of 2000 when Brooks was publishing the names and addresses of convicted paedophiles. “Did any of them tell you where they were getting their information from?” he asked.
“No,” she replied.
The prosecutor went on to ask her about other notes suggesting that in September 2002, both Greg Miskiw and the news editor, Neville Thurlbeck, had commissioned Mulcaire to uncover stories about the murder in Soham of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells. This was “something which is directly part of your agenda,” he suggested.
Thurlbeck had asked Mulcaire to investigate two detectives from the Soham inquiry who had been accused of downloading child pornography. “Did you know about that?”
“No,” she replied. “I don’t remember that.”
Miskiw had asked Mulcaire to target the sister of Maxine Carr, who had been arrested for perverting the course of justice. “Did you know that Glenn Mulcaire had been tasked apparently to hack Maxine Carr’s sister’s phone?”
“No,” she said. “I didn’t.”
Edis also challenged her over the hacking in April 2002 of the voicemail of Milly Dowler. The court had heard that Brooks was on holiday in Dubai in the week when Mulcaire intercepted a message suggesting that the missing schoolgirl was alive and possibly working at a factory in Telford.
Brooks agreed that she had been “extremely interested” in the missing girl and that the paper had run stories about her for the three weeks before Brooks went to Dubai. Edis suggested that she would have wanted to “keep it under review” while she was away. She replied: “The problem is that it’s impossible to be in control of the newspaper – certainly back then – when you go away. I don’t remember saying to anybody ‘Keep in touch over missing Milly.’”
Edis asked her about an email written during that week by her managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, asking Surrey police for details of convicted sex offenders who lived near Milly Dowler’s home. “I don’t remember saying to Stuart Kuttner ‘Please investigate paedophiles in the community.’ I don’t remember having that conversation, but it’s possible.”
She agreed that if the paper had found the missing girl alive, it would have been a big story, which would have made the front page. She was told that the paper had sent five or six journalists to Telford to investigate and agreed that this was “quite a lot” of staff. She was shown phone records which showed she had called the editor’s desk from Dubai twice on the Thursday of her holiday week and three times on the Friday, including one call which lasted 38 minutes. Edis asked her if the acting editor, Andy Coulson, had told her about the story.
“No. He didn’t.”
She said she did not recall having any conversation about Milly Dowler while she was in Dubai. The following week she had returned to the office. “Did nobody tell you at all what had happened while you were away?” Edis asked.
“I don’t remember any conversation,” she replied. She added that she did not believe that Stuart Kuttner had mentioned that he had contacted Surrey police to ask them about the contents of the voicemail. “Nobody told me we had accessed Milly Dowler’s voicemail.”
Edis said: “You say all this was hidden from you?”
“I did not know that Glenn Mulcaire worked under my editorship until 2006.”
“It was hidden from you by Greg Miskiw?”
“He did not tell me that he had a private detective called Glenn Mulcaire working for me.”
“You weren’t told by Mr Thurlbeck?”
“By Mr Kuttner?”
“Nobody told you anything?”
“People told me an awful lot. I was the editor but I had not heard Glenn Mulcaire’s name until he was arrested in 2006.”
Glenn Mulcaire, Greg Miskiw and Neville Thurlbeck have pleaded guilty to conspiring to intercept communications. Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and Stuart Kuttner deny a similar charge. The trial continues.