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Last updated: November 4, 2013 6:52 pm
Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie and News International’s head of security conspired to conceal material from the police including hiding a laptop behind rubbish bins in an underground car park after a drop-off disguised as a pizza delivery, the Old Bailey heard on Monday.
Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, described the “complicated” and “risky” exercise – codenamed Blackhawk – as part of a plan to pervert the course of justice. It came in July, 2011, as Ms Brooks, who had just resigned as chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s UK operations, was about to be arrested and police gained powers to raid her London and Oxfordshire homes.
“It is obvious that the purpose of this activity can only have been to hide something significant,” Mr Edis said.
The court was told that Mark Hanna, then head of security at News International, co-ordinated the operation in which he and a team of security experts tried to shield Ms Brooks from a “media firestorm”.
The News of the World had only just closed following revelations that it had hacked the phone of the murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler.
The prosecution detailed an elaborate plan in which Mr Hanna and a colleague retrieved a laptop and a jiffy bag that had allegedly been hidden by Mr Brooks behind a bin in the car park of his Chelsea Harbour flat. The material was allegedly then driven to News International’s Wapping offices while police raided the home.
“The coast was clear after that,” said Mr Edis.
Mr Hanna then hatched a plan to return the material to the car park in the guise of a pizza delivery to Mr Brooks, the court heard.
The associate of Mr Hanna who delivered the material to a hiding place behind bins, sent a text message to his controller that referenced a line from the film Where Eagles Dare: “Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Pizza delivered and the chicken is in the pot.”
In reply, the controller wrote: “Ha! Fuckin amateurs! We should have done a DLB [dead letter box] or brush contact on the riverside! Cheers mate, log in the hours as ‘pizza delivery’.”
However, the plot went wrong when a cleaner found the hidden material and gave it to his manager, who called the police.
The prosecution said that an iPhone and iPad – which Ms Brooks had used in the month before the police raids, according to computer records – were never recovered.
‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Pizza delivered and the chicken is in the pot’ ‘Ha! F****n amateurs! We should have done a DLB [dead letter box] or brush contact on the riverside! Cheers mate, log in the hours as ‘pizza delivery’’
- ‘Blackhawk’ text messages
Earlier the court was told that Ms Brooks had also conspired to pervert the course of justice with her secretary, Cheryl Carter. Ms Carter is alleged to have retrieved seven boxes of Ms Brooks’ notebooks from the News International archive and taken them to her home, the day before the News of the World was closed and turned into a crime scene.
The jury was also told that Ms Brooks widened an “email deletion policy” while chief executive of News International to destroy messages sent up to January 2010, calling for a “clean sweep”.
However, the deletion policy was “not terribly successful”, the prosecution said, as News International and its IT contractors kept back-up records.
To indicate Ms Brooks’ state of mind in July 2011, the prosecutor showed the jury an email she sent to JRM (James Murdoch) entitled “Plan B”. In the message, she suggested that an internal inquiry be set up, which “when published would slam Les, Colin, etc and it will vindicate my position (or not)”.
Ms Brooks is one of eight defendants who all deny charges of criminal wrongdoing.
The charges against Ms Brooks encompass two counts of perverting the course of justice along with Ms Carter, Mr Brooks and Mr Hanna.
She also faces one charge of conspiracy with others to commit misconduct in a public office and a further charge of conspiracy to intercept mobile phone voicemail messages along with co-defendants Stuart Kuttner, Ian Edmondson and Andy Coulson.
The case continues.
. . .
Coulson lawyer intervenes
Andy Coulson, former head of communications for David Cameron, took the unusual step of asking his barrister to address the jury immediately after the prosecution opening had finished, write Jane Croft and Robert Cookson .
Tim Langdale QC, one of Britain’s most eminent silks, invited the jury to “keep an open mind” and reminded them that they had only heard “one side of the story”.
Mr Coulson, who has sat silently in the dock this week alongside his former lover Rebekah Brooks, denies three counts of criminal wrongdoing during his time as editor of the News of the World.
Mr Langdale argued that Mr Coulson was unable to read every story or be aware of its source – despite the prosecution contending that editing the tabloid was not like reading War and Peace.
He likened the tabloid to a “story-gathering factory” and said a “veritable blizzard of emails crossed his desk”.
The court was told that Mr Coulson was never a party to any agreement to hack phones, and was even a victim himself of Glenn Mulcaire, the News of the World’s private investigator.
Describing the News of the World as “fiercely competitive” and “pressurised”, he told the jury that journalists at the newspaper “kept their cards very close to their chest”.
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