The affair they didn’t expose: Phone hacking trial reveals that Rebekah Brooks and News of the World successor Andy Coulson had secret six year relationship

Jury told she wrote 'Without our relationship in my life I'm really not sure how I would cope'

Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, the two former News International editors at the centre of the phone-hacking trial, had a clandestine sexual relationship that lasted for six years and covered a period when criminal activity was taking place inside the News of the World, a jury at the Old Bailey was told.

On day three of the trial, the court heard that the secret affair began in 1998 and ended in 2004. Andrew Edis, QC, the prosecution’s leading counsel, told the court that the relationship spanned “the whole conspiracy period” and was central to the charges the pair are now facing. “What Mr Coulson knew, Mrs Brooks knew too,” he said. “And what Mrs Brooks knew, Mr Coulson knew too. That is the point.”

The relationship was discovered when officers from the Metropolitan Police, investigating the re-opened hacking case in 2011, searched Mrs Brooks’ London home and found a laptop in a cupboard. Mr Edis said an emotional letter to Mr Coulson written by Mrs Brooks was found on the computer. The jury was told that it was unclear whether or not it had ever  been sent.

The letter outlined Mrs Brooks’ response to a request from Mr Coulson that their relationship needed to end. Despite the fact that the affair was apparently over and the discussion of agreed new “rules” for the future, Mrs Brooks nevertheless openly declared her love for Mr Coulson and admitted  she was worried about how she would cope without him. In a highly emotional passage she wrote: “The fact is you are my very best friend. I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you. We laugh and cry together... in fact without our relationship in my life, I am really not sure how I will cope. I’m frightened to be without you.”

Mrs Brooks edited the News of the World between 2000 and 2003, when she left to edit The Sun. Mr Coulson, who had been her deputy at the NOTW, then moved into the editor’s chair.

Mrs Brooks married the actor Ross Kemp in 2002, while Mr Coulson and his wife Eloise were married in 2000. Mr Edis explained to the jury that he was not deliberately intruding on their private lives, or making a moral judgment on their behaviour. Instead he said the key issue about the relationship concerned the criminal charges they both faced.

He said: “[They] are charged with conspiracy and, when people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is how well did they know each other? How much did they trust each other?

“And the fact that they were in this relationship, which was a secret, means that they trusted each other quite a lot with at least that secret, and that’s why we are telling you about it.”

Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson, along with the former managing editor of the NOTW Stuart Kuttner, and the paper’s former news editor Ian Edmondson, are charged with conspiracy to illegally intercept mobile phone messages.

The charge against them relates to the period from October 2000 to August 2006. Three other former NOTW newsdesk journalists, Neville Thurlbeck, Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup, have already pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge.

Eight defendants in the trial, which is expected to last until Easter, are facing a total of seven counts involving conspiracy to phone hack, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and making corrupt payments to public officials. Not all of the defendants face the same charges and all have pleaded not guilty.

The disclosure of the Coulson-Brooks affair came as the prosecution outlined the evidence it intends to present concerning the hacking of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone. Glenn Mulcaire, the specialist investigator tasked by the NOTW to access private voicemails, pleaded guilty at an earier stage of the proceedings to hacking her phone in 2002.

Mr Edis said that if it is proved that Mr Kuttner, Mrs Brooks or Mr Coulson were involved in the commissioning of Mulcaire at that time, “then that is enough to convict them [on the conspiracy to hack charge].” He told the jury: “This is important.”

The jury were told that, following a campaign by the NOTW to publicise the names and addresses of convicted paedophiles after the killing of seven-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000, Mrs Brooks took a personal interest in the Dowler case. The prosecution stated that the NOTW had developed a relationship with Surrey Police, who were investigating the murder, and that following the commissioning of Mulcaire to access the schoolgirl’s phone, Mr Kuttner had contacted the investigation team telling them that the paper had a tape containing voicemails from her mobile.

Mr Edis said: “Surrey Police took no action about that at the time. It’s common ground [agreed between prosecution and the defence teams] that [they] should and could have investigated when it came to their attention. But perhaps at that time they may have thought it was really more important to find Milly.”

The jury had earlier been told that Mr Kuttner was “not just a bookkeeper” but had been a journalist who regularly attended editorial meetings and had been the paper’s main link and liaison and senior police officers. The jury also heard that Mr Kuttner’s own notebooks showed that he had contacted senior officers in charge of the Dowler investigation.

Mr Edis told the court that only hacking Milly Dowler’s phone could have given the NOTW the specific information that it published in its first edition on 14 April 2002.

The court heard how this article contained the contents of voicemails from Milly’s phone, but was later pulled from subsequent editions.

Although Mrs Brooks was on holiday in Dubai during the week leading up to the publication of the story, the jury was told that Mrs Brooks’ calls and texts to the NOTW increased in frequency significantly as the Saturday night publication deadline approached.

Mr Edis said the relationship between Mr Coulson and Mrs Brooks was crucial to understanding the background to the key editorial decisions that had been made inside the NOTW on the night the paper published the Dowler story.

It was alleged that Mr Kuttner, Neville Thurlbeck and others inside the paper had been aware of where the information about the Dowler story had come from. “It was phone hacking – and was not much of secret. Everyone seems to have known,” Mr Edis told the court.

He asked the jury to consider “whether the [information] had been kept from the editor and the deputy editor. And why on earth would it [have been]?”

Mr Edis told the jury that Mrs Brooks knew about the “practice” of phone hacking, saying that she was heard in 2010 to say that it was, in the late 1990s, “widespread across the whole newspaper industry” and that “no one thought it was wrong at that time”.

Mr Edis said that the jury would be told how, at a lunch in the autumn of 2005, Mrs Brooks revealed to Eimear Cook, the former wife of golfer Colin Montgomerie, that hacking was a simple process and only required the person’s mobile phone number and a factory pin code.

Mr Edis said that Ms Cook had been given an example by Mrs Brooks of a story “that had come from phone hacking” which related to Sir Paul McCartney, his former wife Heather Mills and an engagement ring.

In 2002 the NOTW published an article about the couple headlined: “Macca throws Heather’s ring out of hotel window. Exclusive.”

Mr Edis said that if Ms Cook was right: “That was an account by Mrs Brooks of that story during her editorship having being produced by phone hacking.” The crown is expected to continue its opening address on Friday.

The letter: What Brooks wrote to Coulson

“…Finally and the least of our worries, but how do we really work this new relationship? There are a hundred things that have happened since Saturday night that I would normally share with you..some important, most trivial.

The fact is you are my very best friend. I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you. We laugh and cry together...infact without our relationship in my life, I am really not sure how I will cope. I’m frightened to be without you...but bearing in mind ‘the rules’ you will not know how I am doing and visa versa. The thought of finding out anything about you or your life from someone else fills me with absolute dread. Also you said I had to email you if anything important if I was ill? I don’t understand this...we are either there for each other or not surely?

Anyway, that really isn’t where I am confused. I know what horror it means and I know why we have to stick to it. But for example, how does this work thing manifest itself. Do we limit contact until we absolutely have leaving our execs to sort run of the mill joint stuff? I don’t want to get this wrong. I hope that I’ve managed to put your mind at rest about Les..and that you two now have a better relationship. On KRM, well he’s not bollocking you must not brood on lack of calls.

Obviously I can’t discuss my worries, concerns, problems at work with you anymore..and visa versa..but I’ll assume unless I hear different that we keep our professional relationship to the minimum..and avoid if possible without it being in any way awkward. If it is necessary or more importantly right that we two editors should deal with it, then we will. If either of  us feels that we are not striking this balance then  we must say..??”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas