News Corp titles ‘repeatedly’ hacked phones and paid bribes
Court hears News of the World journalist accessed voicemail left by Prince Harry
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in London today. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
News Corp tabloids repeatedly hacked phones and paid bribes to get stories about Britain’s royal family, including one in which Prince Harry sought help on an essay during his time at a military college.
The Old Bailey today heard a transcript of a 2005 voice mail left by the prince on his ex-special services private secretary’s phone, asking for information on the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege, was found on a file owned by former News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman, prosecutor Andrew Edis said today.
A year later, Rebekah Brooks, then editor of the Sun tabloid, approved a payment for a photo of Harry’s brother, William, in a bikini. Goodman and Brooks are among eight people on trial for a variety of charges stemming from practices at News Corp newspapers.
Another voice-mail message revealed Prince William had been shot with plastic bullets when he got lost on a military training exercise in the UK, Mr Edis told jurors.
“Goodman had kept a little file of e-mails which showed, we suggest, that what he was doing was officially sanctioned by people who were senior to him,” Mr Edis said.
Company chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World, the country’s best selling paper, in July 2011 in a bid to defuse a scandal over revelations journalists had hacked the phone of a missing teenager, Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered.
The fascination with the royal family wasn’t limited to News of the World. While she was editor of the Sun, Ms Brooks approved a payment of £4,000 for a picture of William, dressed in a bikini at a James Bond party in 2006, Mr Edis said. The photo wasn’t published.
Earlier today, Mr Edis said another former News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, told a journalist to “do his phone” to stand up a story on a former soccer player’s son. Mr Coulson e-mailed Ian Edmondson, a former news editor at the News of the World also on trial in the case, to instruct him to hack the phone of Calum Best, the son of former Manchester United player George Best, Mr Edis said.
The 2006 e-mail told him to “do” the phone to get more information on a story about whether Calum Best had an illegitimate child.
Ms Brooks (45) and Mr Coulson, who would become an adviser to British prime minister David Cameron, had a six-year-long affair ending in 2004 that was discovered by police, Mr Edis told jurors yesterday.
He also read out e-mails showing how Mr Coulson (45) and Mr Goodman, discussed payments of £1,750 to a police officer for two royal family phone books in 2002 and 2003.
The directories contained contact details for members of the royal household including Queen Elizabeth’s phone numbers to get in touch with her family. “I think that we should have the book and the goodwill that goes with it,” Goodman said in a 2003 e-mail to Mr Coulson asking for a payment for the book of £1,000.
“These people will not be paid in anything other than cash because if they’re discovered selling stuff to us they end up on criminal charges, as could we.”
In order to justify the cash payments to managing editors at the tabloid, Mr Goodman listed a number of stories which had come directly from the books and the “turning of mobiles” including ones on William, his future wife and Harry, Mr Edis said.
“I’m not going to put it in writing but any paper or computer trail that leads to them or their families will put them, me, you and the editor in jail,” Mr Goodman said in a 2003 e-mail to a deputy managing editor at the newspaper.
“Why on earth say he was buying them from palace police officers if he wasn’t?” Mr Edis said. “It would be terribly, terribly stupid.”