Phone-hacking trial: News of the World reporter played Milly Dowler voicemails to police

The trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, the prime minister's former director of communications Andy Coulson and six others began at the Old Bailey on 28 October. The Drum will be in court for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last at least four months, and will provide comprehensive updates on this blog.

The trial is scheduled to examine seven counts that include conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Coverage will be provided by James Doleman, who was acclaimed for his exhaustive and responsible reporting of the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial.

The second witness at the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others this morning was Sarah McGregor (whose evidence we could not report at lunchtime for legal reasons). McGregor was head of corporate communications for Surrey police in 2002, when schoolgirl Milly Dowler went missing. She was brought in to help the major inquiry team investigating Dowler’s disappearance on 23 March, two to three days after the girl went missing.

Trial: Proceedings at the Old Bailey continue

Mcgregor was asked by Mark Bryant-Heron, for the prosecution, about a series of contacts she had with staff at the now defunct News of the World, in April 2002. She told the jury that the investigation team had received a call from Stuart Kuttner (73), the then managing editor of the News of the World, asking to speak to a senior police officer as he had “significant new evidence” in the case. She had an officer, Kevin McKenzie, call Mr Kuttner and after some difficulty getting in touch, Mckenzie spoke to Kuttner.

Mckenzie told the press officer that Kuttner had told him about a message left on Dowler’s phone offering her a job interview. When asked about the source, Kuttner allegedly told the officer that the paper had accessed Dowler’s voicemail after getting information from a schoolfriend. McGregor herself later spoke to Neville Thurlbeck, the paper's then news editor, who also admitted the newspaper had access to the voicemails and “played her the tape”, advising her that this was the basis of a story in the next day’s edition of the News of the World.

Cross examined by Kuttner’s QC, Jonathan Caplan, she denied her notes on the incident were mistaken and that McKenzie had told her at the time that Stuart Kuttner had been the first person to mention the voicemails. The court also heard about an email sent by Kuttner to Surrey police later when he complained about lack of access to confidential information about the story despite the fact that they had "passed on information about messages left on Amanda Dowler's mobile phone, advised of other messages left on this number…. offered a copy of a tape recording of the messages and other assistance."

The court then heard from the final witness of the day, William Hennessy. He told the court he had been in Dubai on the weekend of 13 April 2002, proved by the production of a receipt for a watch he had purchased while there, and had been introduced to Rebekah Brooks and her then partner, actor Ross Kemp, by a mutual friend. He told the jury that the group had socialised together around three times and recalled a conversation between Rebekah Brooks and Kemp.

According to the witness, Rebekah Brooks had gone off to answer her phone and Kemp had said, “light heartedly”, "You're always working". Brooks had allegedly responded along the lines of "this is about that missing schoolgirl in Surrey, it’s important".

Cross examined by Rebekah Brooks' QC, Jonathan Laidlaw, Hennessy denied being confused about the incident or mixing it up with another case Brooks was known to have been involved with, that of Sarah Payne. Laidlaw put it to the witness that Brooks had no recollection of him or ever meeting him, to which Hennessy responded “why should she?”

Describing Rebekah Brooks, he told the court that she had not been loud, but was “sociable and pleasant company”. Asked by Laidlaw about inconsistencies in his witness statements, Hennessy said that he was not confused and was “absolutely 100 per cent” that his recollection of the conversation was correct. Laidlaw put it to the witness that Rebekah Brooks would never have described Milly Dowler as a “missing schoolgirl”, she would have “used her name”. Hennessy responded “that is what she said”.

At the end of this session, which had been heated to the extent that the presiding judge Mr Saunders told two of the legal representatives “it’s 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon, lets not bicker”, the jury was allowed to leave the court early so that legal matters could be dealt with

All the defendants deny all of the charges, the trial continues.

Click here to read other posts from The Drum's trial coverage

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