Rebekah Brooks on Thursday acknowledged that she and Andy Coulson had been close enough to share secrets with each other during two periods when they are accused of conspiring to produce stories based on intercepted voicemails.
In tense cross-examination, Andrew Edis QC challenged Brooks over the meaning of a letter she wrote to Coulson in February 2004.
Edis suggested the letter showed that they had been having an affair and sharing secrets for the preceding six years, during which time they published stories about Milly Dowler and David Blunkett which, the crown claims, were generated by hacking phone messages.
Brooks repeatedly insisted that although she and Coulson had begun an affair in 1998, it had not continued for six years.
The affair had stopped and both of them had got on with their lives before it had resumed briefly in 2003. “I hadn’t been sitting there like Miss Havisham for six years,” she said.
At one point, Edis quoted part of the letter to Coulson in which she wrote: “I confide in you. I seek your advice.”
He asked her: “That included work matters, didn’t it?”
“It could have done.”
“Confide means trust – trust people with your confidences. No?”
“And that would include secrets relating to work?”
“And emotional issues as well.”
Edis then referred to another passage in the letter in which Brooks wrote: “For six years I have waited.”
“It suggests doesn’t it that the relationship had lasted six years?”
Brooks said that was not correct.
“You would be telling the truth when you were writing?”
“I was in a very emotional state when I wrote this letter.”
“That’s all the more reason why you would be telling the truth. It’s your heart-felt anguish.”
“Which is absolutely genuine.”
He went on to repeat that the letter suggested they had had an affair for six years.
Brooks replied: “That’s not true … Andy had got on with his life. I’m clearly saying that it has been six years since we had got together… I had gone out, got married, tried to have a baby, got on with my life.
“The emotional feeling that I had towards Andy obviously came out in the letter. But we didn’t have an affair for six years. We were close friends, good friends.”
Edis turned to the state of their relationship in April 2002, when the crown claims that Brooks and Coulson plotted to use voicemail intercepted from the phone of the missing Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Brooks was then editor of the News of the World but Coulson, her deputy, was editing the paper while she was on holiday in Dubai.
“At that time were you talking with him in that confidential way?”
“We were close friends.”
“So you would trust each other?”
“I trusted him as a friend and as a deputy editor.”
“If the deputy editor was committing a crime, he might not want the editor in normal circumstances to find out about it. But he might be able to tell the editor if he really trusted her.”
Edis paused. “Was the relationship in April 2002 such that Mr Coulson could trust you with any confidence at all?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
Edis then asked her about August 2004 when, the court has heard, Coulson, as editor of the News of the World, revealed an affair between David Blunkett and a woman whose name he withheld; and Brooks, as editor of the Sun, followed up the next day by naming the woman as Kimberly Quinn, publisher of the Spectator magazine.
The crown claims that Coulson obtained the story from messages which Blunkett had left on Quinn’s phone and that he then passed her identity to Brooks.
Brooks has told the jury that she wrote her letter to Coulson in February 2004 after he had told her he wanted to end their second period of physical intimacy.
In the letter, she wrote that this meant that: “I can’t discuss my worries, concerns, problems at work with you any more.”
Edis put it to her that by August 2004, they were “back talking confidentially to each other by then?”
“We were certainly talking.”
“But in that confidential way?”
“I think we were back to confiding, particularly on an emotional level by that stage.”
Edis then showed her the billing record for a mobile phone which Coulson was using in August 2004 which showed that he had phoned Brooks immediately before he met Blunkett in Sheffield to tell him he planned to publish a story about his affair.
“Do you remember what he was saying to you?”
Brooks said she could not remember, that Coulson had often called or texted her at the beginning of the day. Edis said: “He is in Sheffield, going to see a cabinet minister. Surely he told you that.”
“No. He didn’t,” she replied.
She went to say that she thought she had come up with Quinn’s name after checking stories which had previously been published which mentioned that Quinn knew Blunkett and that, based on that suspicion, she had “taken a punt” and called Blunkett’s special adviser, Huw Evans, to persuade him to confirm that she was right.
Edis said: “You would have to take a punt if you knew it was a phone-hacking story.”
“I didn’t know it was a phone-hacking story,” she said.
Brooks and Coulson deny conspiring to intercept communications. The trial continues.
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