'DO HIS PHONE': What Andy Coulson told senior journalist Ian Edmondson over Calum Best exclusive, hacking trial told

Jury told to weigh up alleged exchange between then NOTW editor and journalist over Calum Best, son of former soccer star George

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World, told a senior colleague who was investigating the celebrity Calum Best to "Do his phone", the phone hacking trial was told today.

A jury at the Old Bailey heard that victims of hacking by the newspaper had included a long list of famous figures including Sienna Miller, Jude Law, politicians Lord Archer, Nigel Farage and Mark Oaten, pop singer Kerry Katona and various individuals connected to the Royal family including spokesman Paddy Harverson, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, a private secretary to Princes William and Harry, and Tom Parker-Bowles.

Mr Coulson, another former NotW editor Rebekah Brooks, former managing editor Stuart Kuttner and former news editor Ian Edmondson all deny charges of conspiring to unlawfully intercept communications.

Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, said the newspaper had in 2006 targeted Calum Best, son of the late Manchester United star George Best, because he was "thought at the time to be the father of a child that was about to be born".

The prosecution produced a series of emails between Mr Coulson, the editor, and Mr Edmondson, news editor on the paper, in which the pair discussed the possibility that they might lose a possible exclusive story. "You think Calum a leak?" asked the editor. Mr Edmondson referred to the paper's informant as "a nightmare" and said that Calum Best had been "bragging" he had friends inside the paper. "Do his phone", Mr Coulson replied.

Mr Edis said that these three words were very significant and told jurors they would have to weigh up what he meant.

Earlier he told the court how Mr Coulson had confronted the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke over a false rumour that he had been having an affair.

Mr Edis showed the jury an email written to Mr Coulson and his deputy Neil Wallis in 2005 by Jules Stenson, features editor of the paper. It referred to "a tip that Home Secretary Charles Clarke is having an affair with his blonde, attractive special adviser Hannah Pawlby. He got this from a Westminster insider who fancied Pawlby, was going to ask her out and was told 'Don't bother wasting your time - she's with Charles."

The email continued that the paper's news desk had, separately from the features desk, "been working on this for a while".

The prosecution said that Ms Pawlby had been targeted by the NotW's phone-hacking specialist Glenn Mulcaire in 2004. Mulcaire had listed in his notebooks details relating to Pawlby and her family and neighbour. "That is a task which was designed to lead to the investigation of this rumour," said Mr Edis.

The chief prosecution counsel said to the jury: "Was Mr Coulson involved in this, yes he was!" he then described how Mr Coulson had contacted Ms Pawlby to tell her that "I have got a story that we are planning to run tomorrow that I really would like to speak to Charles about. I wouldn't do this in the normal course of events but it's quite a serious story."

Mr Edis said that Mr Coulson had a role in the production of NotW investigations. "He's the man who comes to put the story to them to see what they say, hoping they will say something that confirms it and that allows him to put it in the paper." He added: "They're all working as a team aren't they, isn't that the point? And he's the boss of the team."

The prosecution said that no story had been run because there was no affair.

The court heard of the wide range of the paper's hacking victims. One target was a hairdresser called Laura Rooney, who the paper wrongly assumed to be a relative of the footballer Wayne Rooney. "That just shows the slightly random way this works," said Mr Edis. "She's a hairdresser who does not know Wayne Rooney but finds herself investigated just in case she did."

Before he read out a long list of high profile hacking victims, Mr Edis said that phone hacking was not always the source of a story but was a technique often used in conjunction with other investigative methods, including surveillance and confrontation. The involvement of phone hacking in the investigation process, he said, amounted to a "perfectly rational but entirely illegal system". 

The case is expected to continue until next Easter.