Andy Coulson ‘knew of David Blunkett affair because of hacking’

The Sun learnt by accessing voicemail messages that the woman the former Home Secretary was having affair with was pregnant

As Home Secretary, David Blunkett made an extraordinary tape recording of a meeting in his office with Andy Coulson in which the News of the World editor challenged the politician over an affair with a married woman.

The Old Bailey jury listened to the tape in which Coulson expressed his certainty of the affair and suggested that the Home Secretary should give him a statement. “I would not have gone to all this trouble of exposing myself to you if I didn’t know it was true. It’s my job to sift out the rubbish and identify what’s reliable and I’m confident that this is true. But I cannot lay before you any photographs or anything like that.”

The prosecution alleged that Coulson was so sure of the story because it had been obtained by phone hacking the voicemail messages of friends and associates of the Home Secretary. Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, said: “We know where it came from. It came from phone hacking.” The proof had been discovered “in the safe of the lawyer” at News International, publishers of the News of the World, he said.

During the recording of the meeting with Coulson in August 2004, Mr Blunkett was heard protesting “my private life is my own”. Shortly afterwards, the paper ran its story, headlined “Blunkett’s Affair.”

Mr Edis said: “We say that’s absolutely inconceivable that a newspaper would publish a story of that kind about a serving cabinet minister without knowing it was true.” He said that Coulson felt able to run with the story because he had “asked himself to answer what I call the editor’s question – ‘How do I know this is true?’”

Before and after publication, Mr Edis, said Coulson had numerous contacts with Rebekah Brooks, who was then editor of The Sun. The day after the News of the World story, The Sun published its own piece, headlined “Blunkett’s True Love”, detailing the Home Secretary’s relationship with a married woman, Kimberley Quinn. The next day it ran another article saying she was pregnant. “One of the hacked voicemail messages is from a clinic leaving a message for the woman saying she should come in for her scan,” said Mr Edis.

Earlier the court heard that another hacking victim Andrew Gilchrist, leader of the Fire Brigades Union, had been targeted by the News of the World’s Glenn Mulcaire in 2002 when the union was in dispute with the Government, and when Brooks was editing the Sunday tabloid. “They investigated him by this method in order to try and find some story, we would suggest, that would go to his discredit.”

The court heard that after Brooks moved to The Sun in 2003, the daily paper ran a series of stories accusing Gilchrist of having an affair, including one headlined “Fire Strike Leader is a Love Cheat”. Mr Edis said this information had not been obtained by phone hacking but “by other means which they paid a lot of money for”.