UK

Milly Dowler story placement 'decided by editor'

Andy Coulson arrives at court
Image caption Ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson faces phone hacking and corrupt payment charges

The jury at the News of the World phone hacking trial has heard it was the editor's decision where to put the Milly Dowler story in the newspaper.

Prosecutors say in 2002 that the then deputy editor Andy Coulson knew a story about the teenager, later found to have been murdered, had come from hacking.

The story was rewritten to omit references to her voicemail and moved to a different page between editions.

Andy Coulson and others deny conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages.

Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire has admitted hacking Milly Dowler's phone after the Surrey teenager went missing in 2002.

The jury has heard that he provided the contents of the messages to the newspaper - and that one of its editors, Stuart Kuttner, later confirmed to Surrey Police that journalists had messages potentially relevant to the investigation.

On 14 April that year, the paper published an article headlined "Milly Hoax Riddle". It suggested that a hoaxer had posed as the missing schoolgirl and had contacted an employment agency looking for factory work.

Image caption April 2002: Story changed between editions

The story was based on a voicemail from the agency, retrieved from Milly's phone by Glenn Mulcaire.

The jury has previously heard that the message had in fact been left in error.

In further editions of the paper - sent to the presses later that evening - the text of the voicemail had been omitted. The story was also moved from page nine to 32 - significantly downgrading its importance.

Then editor Rebekah Brooks was on holiday in Dubai at the time and Mr Coulson was in charge. The prosecution alleges that the two were in contact by text between the two editions.

During Tuesday's evidence at the Old Bailey, Harry Scott, the newspaper's former night editor, was asked whether he or Mr Coulson would have taken the decision to move the story.

Mr Scott said: "No, it would be the editor. We would change it, but the editor would decide it would move."

Timothy Langdale QC, for Mr Coulson, asked: "Sometimes a story might disappear between editions?"

'Polishing' meeting

Mr Scott replied: "You might start with a story which isn't top notch, but find a story for a later edition which was better - so that's the obvious one to go."

Mr Scott said that he was unable to remember the details of the Dowler story. When he was shown the story that replaced it on page nine, headlined "Five SBS Heroes Kill Hundred Al-Qaeda", he said that it was "a great story. It's exclusive too."

He said that once the first edition had come off the presses, there was a "polishing" meeting in the editor's office in which senior staff discussed what needed to change between the editions.

Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, both former editors of the newspaper, deny conspiracy to intercept mobile phone messages. Former managing editor Stuart Kuttner and news editor Ian Edmondson deny the same charge.

Mr Coulson and Clive Goodman, another former NoW journalist, deny conspiracy to pay public officials for stories. Ms Brooks denies the same charge in relation to different allegations. She, her husband Charlie, former personal assistant Cheryl Carter and News International security chief Mark Hanna also deny conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The trial continues.