'Notebooks went missing' amid phone-hacking probe
- 4 November 2013
- From the section UK
Notebooks went missing amid the "media firestorm" caused by the hacking of murder victim Milly Dowler's phone by the News of the World, an Old Bailey jury has been told.
Prosecutors say company executive Rebekah Brooks and others hid evidence as police investigated the newspaper.
Mrs Brooks and her PA Cheryl Carter deny perverting the course of justice.
She denies a second similar charge, along with her husband Charlie Brooks and former security chief Mark Hanna.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the court about events of July 2011 before the News of the World was closed by its parent company, News International, after the revelations about Surrey schoolgirl Milly came to light.
He said News International had handed over three emails linked to phone hacking and claims of payments made to public officials to police and the situation at the company had become "more fevered" as it came under investigation.
"You can imagine the extremely anxious if not panic-stricken approach to these developments that must have been going on," he told the court.
He said that on 8 July 2011, News International chief executive Mrs Brooks, 45, a former News of the World editor, ordered that seven boxes of notebooks be taken from a storage archive at the company and delivered to Ms Carter.
Mr Edis told the court the notebooks were Mrs Brooks's and dated from 1995 to 2007, although Ms Carter, 49, of Chelmsford in Essex, said they mostly belonged to her.
He told the jury: "You will have to decide why did these notebooks go missing."
He added that, while planning to move offices, News International had decided on a new policy for deleting emails, aiming to clear the archive.
It was initially supposed to include only messages before a date in 2007, but Mrs Brooks later suggested in an email that the new policy should cover any emails from before January 2010, he said.
Mr Edis said: "We suggest that that shows Mrs Brooks may have had a personal interest in this email deletion policy - both to the date of the cut-off and her own personal emails - also that it should be got on with."
He said there was "some evidence that Mrs Brooks was keen to get rid of material that related to her activities when she was editor, first of the News of the World, then of the Sun".
The second allegation of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice involving Mrs Brooks, her husband and Mr Hanna included claims they concealed computers and other material from police, the court was told.
The prosecutor said "the media firestorm was surrounding" Mrs Brooks and she was concerned she might be followed around.
The court was told that Mrs Brooks resigned from her post at News International on 15 July 2011 and was expecting to be arrested.
A security operation, given the name "Blackhawk", was set up on Saturday 17 July by News International's director of security Mr Hanna, said Mr Edis.
She was arrested later that day.
Mr Edis said that Mrs Brooks, Mr Brooks, 50, and Mr Hanna, 50, tried to hide material from the police searching Mrs Brooks's homes in Oxfordshire and London.
He said security staff picked up a laptop and other material from the couple's home in Oxfordshire and - by the Saturday night, using the delivering of pizzas as cover story for their movements - they were hidden in a refuse bag near bins at their flat in Chelsea Harbour.
The court heard that, after it was hidden, a member of the security team sent a text to a security chief that said: "Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Pizza delivered and the chicken is in the pot."
The first part of the message was a reference to a line in the Richard Burton film Where Eagles Dare, Mr Edis said.
But before the bag could be recovered, it was found by a cleaner and handed to police, Mr Edis added.
He said Mr Brooks and a driver used by the security team went to the bin area on Sunday to recover the hidden material - to find it was no longer there.
Mr Edis told the court: "The prosecution say that this whole exercise was quite complicated and quite risky and liable to go wrong, as it did."
He added: "The only rational explanation was to hide material so police can't get it."
Mr Edis also said two iPads belonging to Mr and Mrs Brooks had not been recovered in the course of the investigation.
Of Mrs Brooks, he said it was "inconceivable that anyone could have been doing anything to hide her property or hinder the police investigation without her knowledge, agreement and consent".
Mrs Brooks, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, has also pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to intercept communications, along with former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, 45, of Charing in Kent, managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, of Woodford Green, north-east London, and head of news at the paper, Ian Edmondson, 44, of Raynes Park, south west London.
Mrs Brooks, Mr Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, from Addleston, Surrey, also deny conspiracy to cause misconduct in public office.