Read our new manifesto

Start 2021 with fresh ideas
and practical tips on...

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

BRAND SAFETY

GAMING AND ENTERTAINMENT

SOCIAL MEDIA

CTV AND OTT

CUSTOMER RETENTION

DATA AND IDENTITY

PURPOSEFUL MARKETING

WATCH ON DEMAND FROM 25 Jan 2021
Banner BGBanner BG

Phone-hacking trial: The security man, the 'filth' and pizzagate

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.

Trial: The court hear about "pizzagate"
  • Security contractor called photographers "rats"
  • Police alerted to Brooks' missing property
  • Judge questions "pizzagate" explanation

After a delay while a legal matter was discussed, court resumed with security company director William Geddes returning to the stand (you can find the first part of his testimony here). William Clegg, representing Mark Hanna, then rose to cross-examine, however before he could proceed Rebekah Brooks' QC, Jonathan Laidlaw, asked the jury to leave while a legal matter was dealt with. On their return the jury members were then given a map showing part of Oxfordshire and the location of various mobile cell signal towers.

Geddes was then asked about his experience of working with Hanna and the witness confirmed he knew him from his time at Nomura bank. Hanna, the witness told the court was a "consummate professional" and someone he was confident working with. The QC then asked the witness if he and Hanna had conducted a security survey of the Brooks' Chelsea flat. Geddes said they had and as a result both would have known the location and coverage of the CCTV cameras in the building at the car park. The aim of the operation, Geddes said, was to protect Brooks from "media intrusion" as well as members of the public who may have had "hostile designs".

Geddes was then asked about the details of the protection given to Brooks, which he described as discreet. Indeed, he told the court that at one point Brooks had complained that they were paying for security and didn't see any. Decoy vehicles were used to distract from Brooks' car and entry and exit points were varied, the witness said. One issue the security team faced was dealing with photographers on motorcycles trailing Brooks but his team, Geddes said, had ensured they "failed in their mission".

The defence counsel then had the witness go over the details of the security arrangements at Edstone farm, where the Brookses stayed on the night of 16 July, and what vehicles were available to his team there. His team also occasionally ran errands for the couple, going to buy bread and eggs from the local shop if security considerations permitted it. It was not "something we actually welcomed" said Geddes, but it was "difficult to say no". The witness was asked if he had expressed the view that he was "getting too old" for staying up all night during security work. Geddes agreed and Justice Saunders quipped: "I hope that doesn't affect your business," which led to laughter in court. Geddes was asked if he knew Brooks was due to attend a police station the next day. The witness said he did not.

Geddes was then asked about his movements on 17 July, the day that Rebekah Brooks was arrested. The witness said they were "flying blind" that day as events moved very quickly and this was why he was calling Mark Hanna, head of security for News International, and other members of the team. The witness was asked if Hanna knew Brooks was to be detained by the police that day. Geddes replied that to his knowledge Hanna did not as he had never mentioned anything about it. During Brooks' detention, Geddes texted his team outside the police station asking if there were "any rats there yet?" The witness told the court that was a reference to "paparazzi photographers".

The witness was then asked about the next day, Geddes told the court that on 18 July he met with Hanna to discuss security arrangements for Brooks' appearance at a parliamentary select committee. The witness was asked if he remembered making a number of telephone calls over the lunch and the defence QC suggested these were in relation to Charlie Brooks contacting him over some "missing property". Geddes agreed that it might have been and that he believed this had been secured by a member of his team and taken to the Chelsea apartment, but now could not be located.

Judge Saunders then intervened and asked the witness what was meant by a "Can you talk ref pizzagate" text he had received. Geddes told the court it was the term his team came up with as the errand involved included delivering a pizza as well as a bag. "Why did they call it that?" Saunders asked. "I don't know sir," the witness replied. The defence lawyer then put it to the witness that many of his employees were ex-military and that was a type of term they would use. Justice Saunders suggested that they "may just read spy novels I expect".

Mark Bryant-Heron for the prosecution then rose to re-examine the witness. He asked the witness again about the "pizzagate" text he received at around 1.20pm on Monday 18 July and asked who would have sent it. The witness said it came from "Blackhawk 1", a codename for a phone used by members of his team. Bryant-Heron asked if the term denoted "wrong doing" as it echoed Watergate. Geddes replied "absolutely not" and said this was just part of the "lingo of his team". A further text he received, "Filth all over car park floor re Pizzagate", was a reference to the police, the witness confirmed. The witness denied a suggestion from Justice Saunders that the use of the suffix "gate" implied some sort of scandal. The witness was then allowed to leave the stand.

The final witness of the day was a police officer, David Cutts. Cutts told the court he was a forensic officer who interpreted cell phone data and gave his opinion on where a particular phone was located when it was used. A mobile phone, the witness told the court, is a low powered transmitter and receiver, a transceiver, and when it was used a record of which tower it connected from was logged, primarily for "billing purposes". Detailed maps of the process were shown to the jury, the example given being call data from Rebekah Brooks and Cheryl Carter on 7 July 2011. This placed both phones at News International's HQ at Thomas Moore Square for the majority of the day. The same exercise was then carried out for 17 July on phones belonging to Mark Hanna and Rebekah Brooks. As a mobile telephone mast has three antenna attached arranged in a circle, the officer said, it was even possible to tell from which direction the call reached.

At this point the judge asked the jury to withdraw while legal matters were dealt with. Court then adjourned until 10am tomorrow.

Click here to view more posts from The Drum's daily trial coverage

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis