Hacking trial: Andy Coulson ‘knew of special project to monitor royal aides,’ Clive Goodman tells Old Bailey

The former royal editor of the NOTW alleges Mr Coulson was aware of the so called 'Alexander' account used to disguise payments to private investigator Glen Mulcaire

David Cameron's former spin doctor, Andy Coulson, authorised a special project that involved special payments to a private investigator to “monitor” the phones of aides to the royal family, a jury at the Old Bailey has heard.

The alleged £500 a week payments to Glen Mulcaire were made in late 2005 and 2006 during Mr Coulson's time as editor of Rupert Murdoch's then best-selling tabloid, the News of the World.

Clive Goodman gave evidence to the Court of what he alleges Mr Coulson knew of the “Alexander” project - the pseudonym used to disguise Mulcaire's role and the money paid to him.

Goodman, 56, the former royal editor of the NOTW, was in the witness box for a third day at the hacking trial. He told the jury that Mr Coulson demanded he find “new ways” of getting inside the royal family, especially the two young princes, William and Harry.

The 'Alexander' account had been set up by Mr Coulson, Goodman claimed. The cash paid to Mulcaire added to the £92,000 a year he was already receiving from his contract with the NOTW. Mulcaire was jailed on hacking charges in 2007 along with Goodman, and has pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges earlier in the trial.

According to Goodman, the then news editor at the NOTW, Greg Miskiw, knew he had been occasionally accessing the voicemails of the royals. However if personal access codes were changed, the method became redundant.

Goodman said that Miskiw, who pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges earlier in proceedings, put him in touch with Mulcaire. He told the court that Mulcaire offered to provide him with direct dial numbers (DDNs) for voicemail accounts and the allied pin numbers which would allow access to royal messages.

Goodman said he told  Mr Coulson that there had been a “suggestion” that the access information on mobile phones was coming from Britain's security services [the intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6] who were already monitoring some of the royal family. Goodman said he was not sure if this was true or not.

Among a sequence of messages, which Goodman admitted had been obtained through hacking, was one from the former private secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton.

Mr Lowther-Pinkerton trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in Berkshire, served with the Irish Guards, and is a former major attached to the Special Air Service (SAS).

Goodman said that Mulcaire had contacted him in December 2005 and played him a voicemail that had been obtained from Mr Lowther-Pinkerton's phone. He said he made a transcript of the voicemail and had shown it to Mr Coulson and another senior journalist at the NOTW “so they could assess how strong” its contents were.

The transcript, the court was told, contained an emotional appeal to Mr Lowther-Pinkerton from Prince Harry, asking for help on an essay about the 1980 siege of the Iranian embassy in London. At the time the prince was in officer training at Sandhurst.

Goodman said: “It was a good story, but you need to convince people it was a good story. I had to show the transcript to the editor.”

The jury was shown an email from Goodman in which he told another NOTW journalist that Mr Coulson had been given a “full briefing” on the Sandhurst story transcript.

Asked by his defence counsel, David Spens QC, if Mr Coulson had been made “fully aware” of the facts, Goodman replied “completely” and said Mr Coulson told him “steam in”.

In one email exchange which discussed progress on the Sandhurst story, Goodman told Mr Coulson: “As we know it's 100 percent fact”.

Mr Lowther-Pinkerton was one of three royal aides targeted by Goodman. The others were Helen Asprey, the former assistant to princes William and Harry, and the former press secretary to the Prince of Wales, Paddy Harverson.

Goodman also told the court that some senior journalists working at the NOTW  were involved in hacking on an “industrial scale”.

He told the jury that one senior journalist [who cannot be named for legal reasons] regularly hacked Mr Coulson's phone early in the morning  to find out about stories suggested or assigned to other departments within the NOTW. The same journalist also hacked Rebekah Brooks,  then editor of  the other News International tabloid, The Sun. His aim, said Goodman, was to find out what the daily paper was planning.

Mr Coulson and Goodman both deny charges of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

The case continues.

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