January 7 2014 Police challenged Rebekah Brooks’s personal assistant with ‘discrepancies’ over her account of how seven boxes of notebooks came to disappear from News International, warning her at one point that she was facing a ‘sinister implication’.
Brooks and Cheryl Carter, who earned £66,000 as her PA, deny plotting to remove the notebooks from the company archive in July 2011 on the day after it was announced that the News of the World was being closed down.
The jury in the phone-hacking trial yesterday heard tapes of Carter being interviewed by police in January 2012. She told detectives that most of the notebooks which were stored in the NI archive in Enfield, north London, in September 2009, were her own. The head of the archive, Nick Mays, has told the jury that internal records described the contents of the boxes as “notebooks from Rebekah Brooks, nee Wade” dated from 1995 to 2007.
Carter told police that Nick Mays had called her twice during April and May 2011, asking her to remove the boxes because the archive was being downsized. She recalled telling her fellow PA, Deborah Keegan “Where the fuck are we going to put them?” Detectives challenged her with a formal statement made by Mays in which he said: “There is no corporate instruction for people to remove items from Enfield…. I did not call Cheryl Carter to remove these seven boxes from the archive.” They also read a statement from Deborah Keegan which suggested she did not remember Mays making the calls.
Mr Mays has told the jury that it was Cheryl Carter who called him on the morning of Friday July 8 2011, and that he noted her request in his diary: “Pls return Rebekah’s notebooks.”
In the taped interview, Det Sgt John Massey challenged her as to who had first suggested the notebooks be removed from the archive: “If it is you, we think there is some sinister implication there, that you are doing it to get rid of something, especially given it’s the day after the News of the World announced that it will be closing.”
Carter told the police that she had chosen that day in July to remove the notebooks because Rebekah Brooks was on holiday on a boot camp with a personal trainer at her home near Oxford. “I had it in mind that I could leave my desk without Rebekah asking where I was going, why I was leaving my desk.” The jury have been told that the police claim to have “cell site” records indicating that Brooks’ mobile phone was being used throughout that day in or around the News International office in east London.
She told detectives that there was no time pressure on removing the boxes: “I didn’t want them back by a certain time. It was just when we could get them.” The jury heard from Nick Mays that, having originally assumed the boxes could be handed over on the following Monday, he had then been told – he thought by Cheryl Carter – that they had to be delivered that Friday afternoon.
Det Sgt Massey told Carter: “That is one of the key discrepancies here. That’s what we want to clear up. Why are you hurrying things up, if indeed you have said that?”
“I don’t know what to say,” she replied. “I have no answer to that. I am sorry.”
Nick Mays told the jury that when he handed over the boxes to Carter, he had made a note that she had told him that they were not, in fact, Rebekah Brooks’s.
Det Sgt Massey asked her: “Why are you telling him that kind of detail? Why are you clarifying the fact that ‘it’s actually my stuff, not Rebekah’s’?”
“I don’t know,”she replied. “I can’t answer that.”
Carter told detectives that she had arranged for her son to drive the boxes to her home where later she had torn up the notebooks and either thrown them away or recycled them, apart from three pads and a diary which belonged to Brooks, which she had returned to her.
The jury heard that Brooks also had in storage a portrait of James Murdoch; a framed Sun logo with signatures of staff; souvenir copies of front pages of the Sun and the News of the World; and a collection of silverware from the executive dining room which had been bought by her husband, Charlie.
The trial continues.
January 8 2014
Rebekah Brooks was ‘particularly upset’ by the disclosure that the News of the World had hacked the voicemail of the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler and tasked her two personal assistants to check old diaries and bank records to see whether she had been in the country when it happened, an Old Bailey jury heard yesterday.
Giving evidence in the phone-hacking trial, one of the PAs, Deborah Keegan, described how she and her colleague, Cheryl Carter, would look after every detail of Brooks’ personal life from ensuring she had a fresh bottle of water on her desk in the morning to booking her personal trainers in London and Oxford. “It was life-management,” she said.
The jury heard of emailed requests from Brooks to buy more moisturiser and face powder, to send a driver to pick up keys she had left in her flat, to obtain the original of a cartoon from the Times, and to book a table for her and Rupert Murdoch to have dinner at the Kingham Plough pub in Chipping Norton. Mrs Keegan had also emailed Brooks’ mother at one point to reassure her that ‘Becky’ was well. “It was a tough atmosphere to work in because Rebekah was very demanding but we had a good working relationship.”
Mrs Keegan recalled the mood in Brooks’ office in July 2011 after the Dowler hacking was revealed: “She was particularly upset,” she said. “Rightly so.” Brooks had asked the two PAs to check whether she had been in the country at the time. “If Rebekah asked for something, she would get it,” she said. Brooks had not told them that the News of the World was to be closed that week: “We heard the same as everyone else, but there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in and out of Rebekah’s office. We were aware of something.”
The jury heard that on a typical day, one of the PAs would be in the office by 7am to open the post and to make sure that Brooks’ desk was ready with a bottle of water and a clean sheet of paper for her note-taking. As soon as Brooks arrived, the canteen would be told to bring up her breakfast. Several days a week, she would work out with her personal trainer, Zack, in the basement gym. When she was at home, she had a different trainer, Calum, and the PAs had arranged a joint ‘boot camp’ for Brooks and her husband, Charlie.
Mrs Keegan said her work as a PA would include booking Brooks’ holidays, doing her shopping, organising cleaners at her home, looking after her cars, helping with her security, dealing with her family and supervising banking for her and Charlie. She and Cheryl Carter had had access to Brooks’ bank account, complete with her PIN, and would go to the HSBC bank on Mondays to draw out £200 in cash for her.
A ‘strictly private’ box in the PAs’ office contained a gun licence, a marriage certificate and share options while filing cabinets held Brooks’ passport and driving licence, air mile records, Charlie Brooks’ contracts, Cheltenham and Gloucester savings certificates, Barclays Banks shares and records of investments in Morgan Stanley.
Mrs Keegan told the jury that she remembered a ‘decluttering’ Sunday in the late summer of 2009 when Brooks was about to take over as chief executive of News International. She and Cheryl Carter had filled bin bags with unwanted paperwork and sent other material to the archive to be stored. She said James Murdoch had wanted a paperless office. One of the items sent for storage, the jury has heard, was a portrait of James Murdoch.
Cheryl Carter and Rebekah Brooks deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice by removing seven boxes containing Brooks’ notebooks from the archive and destroying them. The trial continues.
January 9 2014
On the day that she resigned as News International’s chief executive in July 2011, Rebekah Brooks was officially declared “a person of interest” to police and escorted out of the building by security staff who then changed the locks on her office door, an Old Bailey court heard yesterday (Thurs).
Jane Viner, responsible for security at the company’s headquarters, said she and security staff had taken Brooks from the tenth-floor executive area at the request of detectives who also searched her office that evening. Brooks had carried nothing more than her handbag as she left. “She was quite upset and subdued,” Viner told the jury at the phone-hacking trial. “It was very uncomfortable.”
The court heard that Brooks’ resignation followed a chain-reaction of events after the disclosure on Monday July 4 that the News of the World had hacked the phone of the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002. On the following day, the company’s head of security, Mark Hanna emailed Brooks, to tell her of his plans to deal with news media and police.
Hanna told her he had spoken to her husband, Charlie, who had agreed that it would be best if they stayed overnight at their flat in Chelsea rather than returning to their home in Oxfordshire: “We will have in place the same process as before (team etc) who will notify me if they see the media around the area. I will then naturally let you know soonest. Likewise, it may be worth switching vehicles for the next few days. If this is a media only concern, I believe this should suffice. If police concern, we put in place the previous plan of entry and exit teams.”
On the Saturday evening at the end of the week, Jane Viner told the jury, when the final edition of the News of the World had been produced, she had supervised the sealing of the paper’s second-floor office, from which staff were allowed to remove only personal belongings. On the Sunday, she said, they had given a number to every desk, computer and set of under-desk drawers and transferred their contents to safe storage in News International’s former HQ in Wapping. The personal offices of the editor, Colin Myler, and other senior staff were sealed until they could be searched by detectives.
It was on the morning of the following Friday, July 15, Viner said, that she had learned of Brooks’ resignation and been called to the office of News International’s general manager, Will Lewis, who told her that the police wanted Brooks out of the building by lunchtime. At ten to twelve, she had gone to Brooks’s office with Lewis and the company’s PR man, Simon Greenberg. She had then explained to Brooks that, like the News of the World staff, she could take away only her personal belongings. “Then Mr Lewis asked me and Simon Greenberg and security staff to escort Mrs Brooks out of the building, which I did.”
Earlier, the court heard that a prosecution witness, Brooks’ former PA Deborah Keegan, had held a series of meetings with one of the defendants in the trial without asking police or prosecutors if that was acceptable. Keegan said she had met five or six times with Cheryl Carter, who was Brooks’ other PA, who is charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Mrs Keegan said she had also texted Mrs Carter and possibly emailed and phoned her.
Andrew Edis QC, for the Crown, asked her: “Did you ask the police or the crown prosecution service whether it was a good idea to meet?”
“No I did not,” replied Mrs Keegan. “I was led to believe it was the correct way to do things. We certainly weren’t doing anything perverting.” She said they had met in open places like hamburger bars and had ensured there was always a third party with them. “The point was to see my friend who I had not been allowed to see for a long time, who was like family.”
Cheryl Carter and Rebekah Brooks deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice by destroying seven boxes allegedly containing twelve years of Brooks’ notebooks.