Rebekah Brooks has denied telling the former wife of golfer Colin Montgomerie that “stupid, wealthy” people should know how to keep their phone voicemails safe by changing their pin numbers.
On the fourth day of her defence evidence in the hacking trial at the Old Bailey, the former chief executive of News International repeatedly challenged the account given to the court last year by Eimear Cook.
Although Mrs Brooks told the court she had known about the security flaw in voicemail systems “back in the late 1990s”, she denied bringing the subject up during a lunch with Ms Cook in 2005. She said she did not recognise the language assigned to her, saying “I just can’t hear myself saying that.”
Mrs Brooks also denied telling Ms Cook that a hacked voicemail had been the source of a story involving Sir Paul McCartney and his former wife, Heather Mills.
Mrs Brooks was also asked by her counsel, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, about her reaction in 2006 when the royal correspondent of the News of the World, Clive Goodman, and the paper’s private investigator, Glen Mulcaire, were arrested on phone-hacking charges.
Although Mrs Brooks had by then left the Sunday tabloid and was now editing The Sun, she said there was “disbelief” and “shock” ?at NI’s Wapping headquarters. She told the court that she had asked about The Sun’s use of “private detectives”, which was “very low... compared to other titles”.
Goodman and Mulcaire, the court was told, subsequently pleaded guilty to hacking charges and were jailed in January 2007.
Mrs Brooks later described a lunch with Goodman shortly after his release. She said the meeting had been arranged to try and convince him to drop an “industrial tribunal” action that he had begun in order to get his old job back.
She said Rupert Murdoch’s former senior executive, Les Hinton, and herself had decided to offer Goodman a writing commission for a special supplement on the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, and help to retrain as a sub-editor. Neither of the offers was accepted and a settlement was reached later.
Throughout the opening of her defence, Mrs Brooks has repeatedly denied she knew of phone hacking at NOTW during 2000 and 2003 when she edited the newspaper, and has denied knowing anything about Mulcaire till his arrest.
The court was shown a copy of an August 2002 edition of the NOTW which carried an interview with Mulcaire. Written by a sports reporter, it appeared on page 82 of the paper on the opening day of that season’s premier league.
The article mentioned Mulcaire’s nickname “Trigger”, that he played for AFC Wimbledon, and was described as part of the NOTW’s “special investigations” team.
Mrs Brooks was asked if she recalled reading the article. She said: “No. The first I heard his name was in 2006. We had 40-plus pages of sport that day. It was 12 years ago, I don’t remember.”
Mulcaire pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges earlier in the trial’s proceedings.
Mrs Brooks is one of seven defendants on trial. All deny the charges against them.
The case continues.