Hacking trial: Andy Coulson admits he knew that David Blunkett's phone had been hacked

 

Political Correspondent

Andy Coulson knew details of the private life of the former Home Secretary David Blunkett, published in a story in the News of the World in 2004, had been obtained from hacked voicemails, the jury at the phone hacking trial has heard.

The former News International editor and Downing Street communications chief, told the jury at the Old Bailey that in 2004, the NotW’s chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck told him of voicemails that detailed a three-year affair between Mr Blunkett and the former publisher of the Spectator magazine, Kimberley Quinn.

Mr Coulson said he was initially “shocked” and angry about what he was being told, asking Thurlbeck: “what on earth are you doing?”.

Mr Blunkett, he told the jury, was regarded as a “friend” of the  Murdoch-owned paper own and ordered the Thurlbeck-led investigation to stop. He said he regarded the accessing of voicemails  as “a breach of privacy”.

Appeals from Thurlbeck, citing grounds of public interest and that a home secretary may have been “distracted” from his job by the publisher of a Tory-leaning publication, resulted in a rethink by Mr Coulson, the court heard.   

Asked by his defence counsel, Timothy Langdale QC, about whether or not he had enquired where or how the voicemails had been acquired, Mr Coulson said he “assumed” this had “been done by Neville [Thurlbeck] himself. It was all coming from Neville.”

Mr Langdale asked Mr Coulson if the voicemails were played to him by Thurlbeck. “Yes, he did,” replied Mr Coulson, adding that he remembered a “declaration of love” by Mr Blunkett, along with a threat to make the relationship public.

“This was the first and only time voicemails were played to me,” Mr Coulson told the court.

The contents of the Blunkett voicemails, were, said Mr Coulson, discussed with an NI executive and with a lawyer. The lawyer, he said, had not examined the issue of illegality surrounding how the voicemails were obtained. The concern was Mr Blunkett’s privacy, the court was told.

Following the U-turn on the Blunkett investigation, Mr Coulson told the court that he decided he needed to stand up the story by travelling to Mr Blunkett’s Sheffield constituency home and putting the allegations of the affair directly to him in a face-to-face interview.

The accessing of his voicemails were not put to Mr Blunkett, Mr Coulson told the court. Although he initially planned to reveal this, Mr Coulson said he had changed his mind to minimise the risk of legal action against the NOTW. In retrospect, he told the court, this was “a mistake”.

The 2004 article on the Blunkett affair did not mention Mrs Quinn [then Kimberley Fortier].

However The Sun, the following day, did name her.

The court was told of text and calls between Mr Coulson and Mrs Brooks that took place after the NotW story appeared. Mr Coulson said there was no deal between himself and Mrs Brooks on the Blunkett-Quinn story.

Earlier in the trail’s proceedings the jury were told that Thurlbeck had pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges.

Mr Coulson, Mrs Brooks and five other are defendants in the trial. They are charged variously with conspiring to hack phones, bribing public officials and to pervert the course of justice. All the charges are denied.

The trial continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent