Phone-hacking trial: Andy Coulson told editor to 'do' a phone to verify celebrity tip-off, court told

Emails between ex-NOTW editor and executive are 'significant' in context of hacking trial, Old Bailey hears

Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World who also ran David Cameron's Downing Street communications unit, told a news executive to "do" a celebrity's phone as the paper tried to establish the veracity of a rumour about him, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

The instruction was made in 2006 at the peak of phone-hacking activity inside the now-shuttered News International (NI) tabloid and was "significant" in the context of the hacking trial, prosecutor Andrew Edis, QC, told the jury. The phone the editor wanted "done" belonged to Calum Best, the son of the Manchester United footballer George Best. Mr Edis told the court the NOTW wanted to confirm if Calum Best was about to become a father.

Worried that Mr Best knew the NOTW was investigating his private life because he had friends on the paper, Mr Coulson, the prosecution claims, wrote the three-word message because he was concerned that Mr Best was about to leak the birth details to a rival Sunday title. In an email to the editor, sent in May 2006, Mr Edmondson wrote: "I know [Mr Best's then girlfriend Lorna Hogan] is a nightmare, but at the moment I'm looking at every little thing. Same thing happened before, Calum bragging I have close mates inside NOTW."

Mr Edis read the jury Mr Coulson's brief answer to the Best problem: "Do his phone."

The jury listened as Mr Edis read out the names of victims of phone hacking by the newspaper. The list included Sienna Miller, Jude Law, the politicians Lord Archer, Nigel Farage and Mark Oaten, pop singer Kerry Katona and various people connected to the Royal Family, including Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, a private secretary to Prince William and Prince Harry, and Tom Parker-Bowles, the son of the Duchess of Cornwall. Mr Edis added that Sir Paul McCartney and his former wife Heather Mills were "the subjects of phone hacking for years".

Mr Coulson and Mr Edmondson, along with the former NI chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, and the NOTW's former managing editor Stuart Kuttner, deny charges of being involved in a conspiracy to illegally intercept mobile phone messages between October 2000 and August 2006. A total of eight defendants are facing varying charges involving hacking, making corrupt payments to public officials and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. All eight deny the charges.

Mr Edis told the court that phone hacking was not always the source of stories published by the NOTW. However he said it was one of three central techniques often used alongside other investigative methods, including surveillance and direct confrontation. He described the involvement of phone hacking in the investigation process as "perfectly rational but entirely illegal".

Details from a NOTW investigation of a rumoured – but false – love affair, involving the then special adviser to the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke, was also given to the jury.

The jury was shown emails written to Mr Coulson and his deputy Neil Wallis in 2005 by Jules Stenson, features editor of the NOTW. The Stenson email cited a tip that Mr Clarke was having an affair with his "attractive" special adviser Hannah Pawlby. It stated "a Westminster insider who fancied Pawlby, was going to ask her out and was told: 'Don't bother wasting your time – she's with Charles'". It was revealed that the newsdesk had, separately from the features desk, "been working on this for a while".

The prosecution said that Ms Pawlby had been targeted by the NOTW's phone-hacking specialist Glenn Mulcaire in 2004. Mr Mulcaire, the court was told, had listed in his notebooks details relating to Ms Pawlby, her family and neighbours. Mr Edis asked the jury: "Was Mr Coulson involved in this? Yes he was." He described how Mr Coulson had contacted Ms Pawlby to tell her: "I have got a story that we are planning to run tomorrow that I really would like to speak to Charles about. I wouldn't do this in the normal course of events but it's quite a serious story."

Mr Edis described Mr Coulson's alleged multiple involvements in NOTW investigations. "He's the man who comes to put the story to them, to see what they say, hoping they will say something that confirms it and that allows him to put it in the paper." He added: "They're all working as a team aren't they, isn't that the point? And he's the boss of the team."

No story was published on a Clarke-Pawlby affair, because it was untrue, the jury learned. In addition to celebrities and politicians, the NOTW's hacking operations also targeted members of the Royal Family. The jury heard that Clive Goodman, the paper's former royal correspondent, was the key figure in the targeting of royals.

Although jailed along with the NOTW's specialist hacker, Muclaire, in 2007, the jury heard that Goodman's activities allegedly began earlier and were more extensive than the period covered by his conviction. Intercepting the voicemails of royal staff led the NOTW to publish a story on Prince Harry, which claimed he had broken the rules at Sandhurst by asking an aide for help with an essay.

Mr Edis said that Goodman had told Mr Coulson that the young Prince had asked his private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, a former soldier, for information about the Iranian embassy siege while studying at the military training academy. Mr Lowther-Pinkerton's voicemail had been hacked by Mulcaire, Mr Edis told the court.

Goodman was careful not to reveal how he acquired the story. He told Mr Coulson he was seeking a response from Clarence House, but did not want to be "too precise" because it might expose their source. The jury heard about a sequence of NOTW stories that had been obtained by Goodman using information which came from Mulcaire's hacking. On one occasion Goodman emailed Mr Edmondson to tell him a story about Prince William had come "from William himself". Asked to explain, Goodman wrote to the newsdesk: "Not on email." Later Mr Edis said Goodman and Mr Coulson "knew what was going on. These are really quite explicit emails. Although they are not as explicit as they might be". He added: "They are being as careful as they can be but the truth, I'm afraid, is still there to be seen despite that."

The evidence: 'Victims of hacking'

Prince William

Clive Goodman emailed News Of The World news editor Ian Edmondson, telling him that a story about Prince William had come "from William himself", the jury was told. Edmondson then wrote back asking for an explanation, to which Goodman replied: "Not on email."

Prince Harry

The court heard that Glenn Mulcaire illegally accessed a voicemail in which Prince Harry asked his private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton – who had himself attended Sandhurst before joining the Irish Guards – to help with an essay he was writing about the Iranian embassy siege. Prosecutors claim that emails between Clive Goodman and Andy Coulson about the story reveal them discussing how to obtain a response from Clarence House without revealing information that would suggest hacking.

Calum Best

The court was read emails between Andy Coulson and Ian Edmondson discussing a potential story about the son of George Best, who was rumoured to have fathered a child. After being informed by Edmondson that he was concerned Mr Best might leak the story to a rival newspaper, Coulson wrote back: "Do his phone", the court was told.

Charles Clarke and Hannah Pawlby

The jury heard that Glenn Mulcaire listened to the voicemails of Hannah Pawlby, a special adviser to the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke, following an untrue tip-off that they were having an affair. Andy Coulson then confronted Mr Clarke with the rumour, which he denied. The story did not appear in the paper.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot