Phone hacking trial: Recordings of David Blunkett’s love messages found in NI safe

Court hears of emotional voicemails in which former Home Secretary tries to prevent break-up
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Tape recordings of emotional messages left by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett on the telephone of his mistress were found in the safe of a senior News International lawyer, an Old Bailey jury has heard.

The cache of tapes and transcripts was discovered in the office safe of Tom Crone, a lawyer then working at Rupert Murdoch’s UK print division in London.

The voicemails were left by Mr Blunkett on the phone of Kimberly Quinn, the former publisher of Spectator magazine. The court heard that the messages related to their affair  – which had begun in 2001 – and that the decision by Mrs Quinn to end their relationship was causing the then Home Secretary “great distress”. In messages read out to the court, Mr Blunkett tells Mrs Quinn: “You are breaking my heart.” Others profess his love for her and how upset he is over the prospect of the break-up.

The jury in the hacking trial, where Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others all deny charges relating to phone hacking, bribery and perverting the course of justice, heard the prosecution describe draft articles on the affair that were also found in the safe. 

These were written by the former chief reporter of the News of the World, Neville Thurlbeck, who coded the names of the couple as “Noddy” for the politician, and “Big ears” for the publisher.

The recordings from 2004 were among 330 voicemails messages, not all from Mr Blunkett, which had been taken from Mrs Quinn’s phone, according to evidence described to the jury by lead prosecutor Andrew Edis QC.

The Blunkett tapes found in the NI safe were inside an envelope. “Thurlbeck. News of the World. August 12, 2004. Noddy and Big Ears” had been written on the package. Thurlbeck, along with two other former news editors at the NOTW, has pleaded guilty to charges relating to illegally accessing voicemails. The jury were told of the guilty pleas at the start of the trial.

Voicemails belonging to Mrs Quinn, containing Blunkett messages, were also found at the home of Glenn Mulcaire, the specialist investigator who had a long working relationship with the NOTW.  He was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking and pleaded guilty to a hacking-related charge before the current trial began.

The court was told of one document recovered from Mulcaire’s files dated August 2004.  This was marked “Blunkett” and “£750”. It was described as an invoice. Phone billing records from the day the invoice was written, and in the two days following, showed telephone contacts between Mr Coulson and Mr Thurlbeck, and between Mr Coulson and Rebekah Brooks.

The draft articles found in Mr Crone’s safe, written by Thurlbeck, state the affair’s ending was being “instigated by Big Ears” and that “Noddy is devastated”. It describes the newspaper’s operation to gather further information involving “bikes and cars on her round the clock.” A suspected country location is noted as a possible meeting for the couple. Finding it, writes Thurlbeck “shouldn’t be too hard. It’s clearly next to a church as a church bell can be heard on one of the messages”.

The court was later played a full recording of a meeting between Mr Coulson and Mr Blunkett. The then editor of the NOTW had travelled to Mr Blunkett’s home in Sheffield with the aim of getting the Home Secretary to confirm he was having a long-term affair with a married woman.

The tape was made by Mr Blunkett on 13 August 2004. Throughout the conversation with Mr Coulson he would neither deny nor confirm his relationship with Mrs Quinn, insisting that his private life was different from his role as politician.

Mr Coulson repeatedly said he believed the information he had been given by “a source” was true. He tried to cut a deal, saying he would not name Mrs Quinn if he were given confirmation of the affair. That did not happen. Two days after the Sheffield confrontation, the NOTW published a story on Mr Blunkett’s hidden affair.

The trial continues.