The former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, allegedly telephoned the adviser of Charles Clarke, then home secretary, saying he had a “serious story” his paper was planning to run and he needed to speak “directly” to him. But the message and another follow-up call was never listened to because her phone had already been hacked, the Old Bailey has heard.
The jury in the phone hacking trial at the Central Criminal Court were told about an NOTW investigation into an affair they believed Mr Clarke and his special adviser, Hannah Pawlby, had been having from 2004.
Although rumours of the affair had been circulating inside Westminster, there was no truth in it.
Phone numbers of Ms Pawlby, her friends and relatives, were found in the notebooks of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator regularly commissioned by the News International title to hack phones.
The hacking of the aide’s phone is alleged to have begun in spring 2004. The court has already heard this is between the NOTW targeting of another home secretary, David Blunkett.
Appearing as a witness for the prosecution, Ms Pawlby said she had never heard the messages left by Mr Coulson in June 2005 because their interception had meant they had shifted to her “saved messages” box.
The jury heard that around the time of the calls, the NOTW had been engaged in a surveillance operation in and around Ms Pawlby’s London flat.
It was told that a month before the first Coulson call to Ms Pawlby an email, shown to the court, was sent by the former features editor of the NOTW, Jules Stenson. It was sent to Mr Coulson, his deputy Neill Wallis, and the news editor James Weatherup.
It said the features desk had a tip that “Charles Clarke is having an affair with his blonde, attractive special adviser Hannah Pawlby”. It also said that “news had been working on this for a while through Neville.”
James Weatherup, Neville Thurlbeck and Greg Miskiw, three former news editors at the NOTW, pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges earlier in the case’s progress.
Recordings of the Coulson calls were recovered from Mulcaire’s house in 2006 during a police investigation. Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 on phone hacking charges . He has also pleaded guilty to further hacking related charges
In the witness box, Mr Clarke was asked by the lead prosecuting counsel, Andrew Edis QC, if there had been any truth in the affair rumour. He replied : “I never had a relationship of that kind with Hannah Pawlby. I would never dream of doing so.”
Earlier in his evidence Mr Clarke revealed that the former political editor of the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh, had told him the Murdoch-owned daily had evidence of his relationship with Ms Pawlby, including pictures.
Mr Clarke denied there was any affair and said he would sue the Sun if they printed the lie.
Nothing subsequently appeared in The Sun, or later in the NOTW.
Alison Pople, representing Mr Coulson, said Ms Pawlby did not know what Mr Coulson wanted to speak to Mr Clarke about.
The court was shown articles that appeared in the NOTW from this period which showed comments from the Home Office in a story on Ronnie Biggs, the train robber, and a political story on schools’ anti-bullying policy relating to Mr Clarke’s former cabinet post in the education department.
Ms Pawlby also revealed that she had been shown Mulcaire’s notebooks and identified personal contact details for grandparents, parents, friends of her parents including a former head of M16 and a member of the British embassy staff in Paris who was at school with her mother.
Mr Coulson, along with the former chief executive of NI, Rebekah Brooks, and six others are charged with hacking-related offences. All the charges are denied.
The trial continues.