Mystery of Rebekah Brooks’s 10 missing devices: gadgets that connected to router have never been found, hacking trial told

One phone on the list may have been a duplicate, another may have belonged to someone else and one iPad may have been lost

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The Independent Online

Up to 10 mobile phones and computer gadgets potentially linked to Rebekah Brooks have never been found by police, the hacking trial heard today.

An iPhone, an iPad and an “unknown device” listed as having connected to Mrs Brooks’s home router were never recovered in searches on the former News International chief executive’s office and addresses in London and Oxfordshire, Det Con Philip Stead told the Old Bailey.

News International also provided details of three BlackBerry phones, an HTC phone, two iPhones and an iPad thought to be linked to Mrs Brooks. In all, the court heard there were up to 10 devices in use up until September 2011 that were unaccounted for by police.

However, one phone on the list may have been a duplicate, another may have belonged to someone else and one iPad may have been lost.

Det Con Stead said it had recently come to light that one of the phones linked to the Oxfordshire router had since been claimed by Sir Charles Dunstone, the Carphone Warehouse boss.

The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, quipped to the jury: “He probably has a lot of phones!”

The trial has heard previously how Mrs Brooks, after she resigned from her job in July 2011, left with just her handbag and a disabled BlackBerry phone. Her office was sealed off by News International staff and computer equipment was bagged up by police for examination.

Police later seized computer equipment in a search of Mrs Brooks’s London home while she was in custody at Lewisham police station, and were handed two bags containing two laptops found in the underground car park of the Chelsea Harbour flat.

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, for the defence, suggested explanations for the missing devices – that they may have been broken or lost and replaced.

The former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and her husband, Charlie, arrive at the Old Bailey earlier this week (EPA)

Referring to the BlackBerry phones on the list of missing devices, he asked Det Con Stead: “Would you be able to say whether or not [items] four, five or six may simply be early BlackBerrys issued to Mrs Brooks?”

The police officer replied: “I do not think you can tell.”

Mr Laidlaw pressed: “We will never know, will we?” to which the witness replied: “No, not in relation to these devices.”

Mr Laidlaw went on to cite an email exchange between Mrs Brooks and her husband, Charles, on 1 April 2011.

Responding to the message that she had “Lost iPad 2”, Mr Brooks replies: “Back of car from last night? Restaurant?”

Later, the court heard that the system News International used to track the allocation of technology to staff had been in need of improvement and it was not until August 2011 that a new system was brought in.

On the evidence gleaned from the wireless router at the Brooks’s Oxfordshire home, Mr Laidlaw said: “All this tells you is there has been a connection. It does not necessarily tell you there has been activity.”

Mrs Brooks, 44, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies conspiring to hack phones, conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office and conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

All seven defendants in the case deny the charges against them.

The trial was adjourned until 10am on Monday.