Phone-hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks felt 'shock and horror' at Dowler hacking and was unaware of Glen Mulcaire contract, court hears

Brooks denies conspiring to hack phones and cover up evidence to pervert the course of justice

Rebekah Brooks claimed she only found out the News of World had hacked the phone of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler nine years after the illegal action happened, the jury in the phone-hacking trail was told.

The former News International chief executive, who edited Rupert Murdoch's top-selling tabloid between 2000 and 2003, said she felt “shock, horror, everything” when details of the Dowler hacking were published in July 2011.

Mrs Brooks, who was on holiday in Dubai when the NOTW published details from the schoolgirl's voicemails in April 2002, told the court that she had known nothing of the “tasking” of the specialist phone hacker, Glen Mulcaire, to access the 13-year-old's messages.

Although News International were already under significant legal and political pressure over the fall-out from phone hacking, the Dowler hacking sparked the decision by Mr Murdoch to close the NOTW. It also had a direct effect on David Cameron's eventual decision to order a judicial inquiry that was led by Lord Justice Leveson.

During the holiday break in Dubai with her former husband, Ross Kemp, Mrs Brooks denied that a stream of telephone calls and text messages to the London offices of the NOTW signified she knew of, and was controlling, the coverage of the Dowler story that contained illegally-obtained voicemails.

Previously the court had learned that the hacking of the schoolgirl's phone took place between 10 and 12 April, the period when Mrs Brooks was in the Middle East.

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, her lead counsel, asked if the Dowler hacking had ever been brought to her attention, then or soon after. “Absolutely not” she answered.

The court has heard that Mrs Brooks had a relationship with her then deputy, Andy Coulson. She confirmed this had involved “periods of intimacy” with Mr Coulson, who later became Mr Cameron's communications chief in 10 Downing Street.

During her holiday Mr Coulson was editing the paper. She told the court that she did not recall having discussions with Mr Coulson from Dubai that related to the disappearance of Milly Dowler.

The jury heard that Mrs Brooks had not been aware of the legal changes introduced in 2000 that made phone hacking illegal. “I didn't think anybody, including me, knew it was illegal,” she said.

She said that hacking would not have helped the “campaigning” and “investigations” journalism carried out by the NOTW under her editorship,

She said that no journalist had ever come to her and asked her to sanction the use of phone hacking. Although not knowing it was “illegal” she said that it represented a “serious breach of privacy”.

On the use of private investigators, she told the court that at that time in Fleet Street their use was regarded as “pretty normal.”

Mulcaire, convicted of phone hacking in 2007, pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges earlier in the trial's proceedings. He was given a £92,000 a year contract with the NOTW in 2001, that was paid in weekly sums of £1,769.

Mrs Brooks said she was never shown his contract, and had not heard of the company name - Euro Research and Information - that he used. She said the contract should have been authorised at the highest level within News International, including herself, but was signed by Greg Miskiw, then the NOTW's news editor.

The jury has been told that Miskiw also pleaded guilty to hacking related charges earlier in proceedings.

Mrs Brooks denies charges of involvement in a conspiracy to illegally access voicemail messages, bribing public officials, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Coulson denies the hacking and bribery charges against him.

The case continues.

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