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

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin visits her 1990s work ‘My Bed’ at Tate Britain in London, where it is back on display from today
artsBut how does the iconic work stand up, 16 years on?
Life and Style
life + style
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor