Rebekah Brooks was terrified that pararazzi would take a “killer photograph” of her being handcuffed and led away by officers investigating phone hacking, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.
The newspaper executive’s fear that the press would obtain a “career-ending” picture of her arrest was outlined in court by her husband Charlie Brooks, as he gave evidence at the opening of his defence at the hacking trial.
Mr Brooks, 51, a former race-horse trainer and novelist, told jurors that he first feared his wife would be arrested in April 2011 as they were returning from a holiday abroad. He said she had been advised that it was “highly likely” she would be arrested at Heathrow airport. The warning was related the recent arrest of a senior News of the World journalist.
The court heard that Mrs Brooks was arrested some three months later.
Mr Brooks later described discussions with his wife in July 2011, after details of the hacking of a phone used by the murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, were published.
The couple, who then lived in a riverside apartment in Chelsea, looked at the option of moving out to avoid a potential raid by police.
Mr Brooks said his wife had spent the months between April and July 2011 living in a “paranoid” state, with a particular fear of a dawn raid. He said he had advised his wife not to use the front entrance of their apartment block, and that using the underground car-park entrance would be better should an arrest take place.
He told the court that he had discussed with his wife the possibility of an overnight stay at the nearby Wyndham Hotel. He said Mrs Brooks had agreed, telling him: “I’d feel better”.
He told the jury that all his wife wanted was a decent night’s sleep, adding: “We weren’t planning a midnight flit to Venezuela. We were just worried about the police.”
Other options considered included a flat-swap with neighbours, and staying at the Lanesborough hotel at Hyde Park Corner. Neither the flat swap nor the overnight hotel arrangement happened.
As published details of the extent of phone hacking by the News of the World emerged, dating back to the period when his wife edited the Rupert Murdoch-owned title, Mr Brooks said his wife became “pretty wrecked”.
Mr Brooks told the jury that the global boss of News Corp was concerned about his wife’s welfare and contacted him personally.
Mr Brooks told the court: “He [Rupert Murdoch] explicitly told me that if she [Mrs Brooks] showed any signs that she wanted to resign, then I should ring him in America, so he could ring and stop her.”
But growing public outrage over the Dowler hacking reached a point where executives at the company believed Mrs Brooks would soon appear before a Commons select committee as an arrested employee.
Mr Brooks said his wife’s immediate boss, James Murdoch, then called him, asking that he pass on a message to Rebekah that it was now felt she should resign.
He said that, rather than seeming disappointed, Mrs Brooks sounded relieved, saying : “Thank God. I’ve been telling them this all along.”
Mr Brooks, along with his wife and a former News International security official, Mark Hanna, are charged with involvement in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. They deny the charges and the case continues.