Hacking trial: Cleaner found Charlie Brooks’s erotic magazine in bin bag, court hears
Attempt ‘to conceal porn from police’ led to charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice against the Brookses
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Wednesday 15 January 2014
A pornographic magazine called Lesbian Lovers, along with seven DVDs, were among items contained in bags belonging to the husband of Rebekah Brooks that were found in the underground car park of the couple's Chelsea home, the jury at the hacking trial in the Old Bailey were told.
A tan leather briefcase and a black nylon holdall marked “World Economic Forum”, usually given to delegates attending the elite annual summit in Davos, Switzerland, were found inside a black plastic bin liner by a cleaner. The bag was behind bins in the underground area of the Chelsea Harbour complex.
The discovery by Fernando Nascimento on a routine rubbish collection was made the day after the former News International chief executive was arrested at a south London police station in connection with Scotland Yard's phone hacking investigation.
It was alleged by the prosecution in the November opening of the case last year that the bin liner and the bags it contained were hidden behind large rubbish containers in the carpark . This was described by the prosecution as part of an elaborate plan, involving the Brookses and security men working for News International, who had attempted to keep material from falling into the hands of the police who searched the couple's riverside apartment on the day of Mrs Brooks' arrest.
The discovery of the plastic bag and its contents the following day, July 18, 2011, and a subsequent call to the police, resulted in charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice being brought against Mr and Mrs Brooks, and the former NI security boss, Mark Hanna.
The three deny all charges against them.
A photograph of the insides of the two bags was shown to the jury. The contents were described to the jury as a Jiffy bag, the pornographic title and DVDs, along with a Sony laptop, an iPad and iPod, and other documents. An Apple laptop was also said to part of Mr Brooks' property contained in the bag.
Charlie Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey (Reuters)
Mr Nascimento, from Portugal, gave his evidence to the court through an interpreter.
Questioned by Mr Brooks' counsel, Neil Saunders, Mr Nascimento denied he had tried to examine the documents in the bag, and had not attempted to access one of the computers out of sight of the CCTV cameras in the underground car park area.
Mr Saunders suggested to the cleaner that had he examined the full contents of the Jiffy bag inside he would have found the “Lesbian Lovers” magazine. This was something “you would not have forgotten” Mr Saunders humorously suggested.
Through his interpreter, Mr Nascimento repeated to the court that he didn't understand English. Mr Saunders stated there was “not much writing on the magazine”.
Mr Nascimento told the jury that had he spotted the magazine he would have taken it.
It was also suggested to the Portuguese cleaner that a week earlier Mr Brooks had placed £1000 in an envelope that could have been in the briefcase. Mr Nascimento said he had not noticed any money. The £1000 cash did not feature on any inventory drawn up by police officers who investigated events at Chelsea Harbour.
CCTV footage from cameras in the carpark was again shown to the jury. It showed Mr Nascimento driving a small tractor, hitching bins to the tractor to form a small bins train, and the specific period when Mr Nascimento stopped to discover and later pick up the bag which was eventually handed to his supervisor and then to the estate boss who subsequently informed the police.
Mr Saunders questioned Mr Nascimento about a period of around 40 minutes that was absent from the CCTV footage. Mr Nascimento denied he had driven outside the CCTV coverage range to search the bags and to try and access the computers.
Allan Ramsey, the facilities boss at the Chelsea Harbour complex, was questioned about how the police were called in to investigate what the cleaners had found.
He told the court a cheque book inside one bag had Charlie Brooks name on it. Mr Ramsey said he knew the Brooks' flat had been searched by officers a day earlier, and he decided to inform the police about the find.
Charlie Brooks, according to Mr Ramsey, told him the items found had “been dropped off by a friend for him to collect and there had been some kind of mix-up.”
Mr Ramsey said Mr Brooks told him the mix up occurred about 8pm the previous evening.
The trial continues.
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