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Phone-hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson exchanged texts before Milly Dowler article was changed, court told

By James Doleman |

November 5, 2013 | 5 min read

The Trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others for alleged phone-hacking at the now closed News of the World re-opened this morning at court 12 in London’s Old Bailey. There were four defendants in the dock as the judge has ruled that on days where the evidence does not concern them the accused do not have to attend.

Trial: Rebekah Brooks' telephone logs were examined in court

Trial: Rebekah Brooks' telephone logs were examined in court

The trial continued to hear the evidence of detective sergeant Greg Smith, who led the police’s operation into the alleged hacking of the voicemail messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Smith told the court that Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the Sunday paper, had been on holiday to Dubai on 13 April, the Saturday before the paper allegedly published an article based on Dowler’s voicemails.

The court was read the phone records of Rebekah Brooks which showed she was in regular contact with her newsdesk, and detailed the timings of calls and texts. The jury was also told that the first edition of the paper had a story quoting extensively from Dowler’s voicemails, references that were removed by the second printing. Detective sergeant Smith confirmed to the court that there was allegedly an exchange of text messaged between Rebekah Brooks and the paper’s deputy editor, and co-accused, Andy Coulson that occurred just before the second edition was sent for printing.

Prosecution lawyer Mark Bryant Heron then read police transcripts of Milly Dowler’s voicemails, obtained by the police under a court order, and compared these to the article in the News of the World’s first edition.

Detective sergeant Smith was then cross-examined by Jonathan Laidlaw QC, appearing for Rebekah Brooks. He asked Green if the timings of the calls in the records read to the jury were in UK time, or the time in Dubai, which at that time of year was three hours ahead of UK time. Smith told the court that was “difficult for him to answer” as he had not written to the court. Laidlaw then put it to the court that if the times on the call records were Dubai time, not UK time, the police timeline would be inaccurate.

Laidlaw also detailed other calls made and received by Rebekah Brooks while she was in Dubai. Two were to the Artist’s Rights Group, the agent of Rebekah Brooks' then partner, Ross Kemp. Asked by Laidlaw if Smith was familiar with who Ross Kemp was he replied that he was not. Laidlaw told the detective that he was an actor in the popular soap Eastenders. He apologised for “stealing the judge’s lines” to which Mr Saunders, who is presiding at the trial, responded “I don’t mind” which led to some laughter in court.

Brooks' QC then took Smith through copies of the News of the World from the period in question pointing out that the Milly Dowler disappearance story had never been “front page news”. He pointed to the front page of the paper on the day in question, which led with a story not about Dowler, but about another actor in Eastenders, whom he described as a “colleague of Ross Kemp”.

There was then a short cross examination by counsel for Stuart Kuttner, the former managing editor of the News of the World, Mr Hammond QC. Hammond asked Smith if Surrey police, having been told that the News of the World had accessed Dowler’s voicemails, had launched an investigation. Smith replied that as far as he was aware they had not. Detective sergeant Smith then left the stand.

The trial continues.

Click here to view more posts from The Drum's phone-hacking trial coverage

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