Phone-hacking trial reports w/c Jan 13 2014

The Guardian, January 18 2014
Date at the top of each report is the date of the hearing. Reports were written for following day's paper. Hence use of 'yesterday' in some of them.

January 13 2014        Less than a quarter of an hour after Rebekah Brooks was arrested in July 2011, her husband, Charlie, was recorded by CCTV as he allegedly disposed of a Jiffy bag and a lap-top computer in the car park under their London flat.

The jury in the phone-hacking trial yesterday were played two short tapes from the same CCTV camera. The first showed Charlie Brooks, wearing a white shirt and dark trousers, walking briskly through the basement car park at Chelsea Harbour, clutching a Jiffy bag and a laptop to his chest before disappearing out of camera range. The second showed him walking back, apparently empty handed apart from his mobile phone, which he was checking.

The recorded times on the tapes suggested that less than a minute separated the two actions, beginning at 12.14 on the morning of Sunday July 17. The jury was told that at 12.02 that morning, Rebekah Brooks had been arrested by detectives after being driven by her chauffeur to Lewisham police station.

Earlier the court heard of the special security measures which were taken to protect News International executives as the phone-hacking scandal came to a head that July. The company’s director of security, Mark Hanna, hired teams to protect Rebekah Brooks, who was codenamed Blackhawk; the company’s general manager, Will Lewis, codenamed Kestrel; and the head of communications, Simon Greenberg, codenamed Sparrowhawk.

Hanna’s line manager, Jane Viner, said that the extra security came after a week in which there had been “sporadic arrivals and departures of people demonstrating” outside the company’s headquarters in east London; threatening letters and emails sent to Brooks and other executives; and a concern about possible electronic bugging which had been dealt with by a technique known as ‘room masking’.

With Rupert Murdoch and his son, James, arriving in London that weekend to prepare to give evidence to the House of Commons media select committee, Viner said, she had believed that “the security risk had never been higher.” Mark Hanna had hired an outside company, International Corporate Protection, to provide extra manpower to review security at executives’ homes, guard the homes for up to 24 hours a day and provide protection when they travelled.

Six months earlier, on January 25, the court heard, as Scotland Yard prepared to launch the Operation Weeting inquiry into phone-hacking at the News of the World, Rebekah Brooks had asked Hanna for checks to be made to ensure she was not being bugged, emailing him: “Can we have my phones and office swept?…Thanks. Discreetly.” Later, she added that she also wanted her home and car checked.

These special precautions, Viner told the jury, were part of a wider set of security measures. It was “normal and routine”, she said, for the company’s offices to be swept electronically for bugs. She agreed with Mark Hanna’s counsel, William Clegg QC, who put it to her: “There were a number of reasons for that. One obviously was that newspapers are very competitive with each other, and some journalists may be anxious to try to steal a scoop from a rival. One of the reasons for the sweeps was to avoid that possibility.”

A further reason for the sweeps, Mr Clegg suggested, was News Corp’s bid for BSkyB: “It was a sensitive topic at News Corp and another reason why you would want to be sure discussions about such a matter were not broadcast to people who were potential competitors.” An alarm system had been fitted at the home of the then editor of the Times, James Harding, the jury was told.

Rebekah Brooks, Charlie Brooks and Mark Hanna deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice by concealing computers and other material from police. The trial continues.


January 14 2014

Prosecutors yesterday released CCTV clips which, they say, reveal Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie and their security adviser, Mark Hanna, hiding material from police who were planning to search the Brooks’ London flat.

The clips, from nine different cameras, were played to the jury in the phone-hacking trial who have been told that the alleged plot ended with “an accident that was rather bad luck for those involved” when a cleaner found some of the material with the result that it was handed over to police.

The Crown also used text messages and ‘cell site’ records, which track the movement of mobile phones, in their attempt to reconstruct 26 hours in the life of the Brooks’, beginning a few minutes after noon on Sunday July 17 2011 when Rebekah Brooks was arrested at Lewisham police station in south London.

The first CCTV images showed Charlie Brooks at 12.14 emerging from the lift in the basement car park beneath the couple’s flat at Chelsea Harbour, clutching a brown Jiffy bag and a lap-top computer, and moving out of shot in the direction, the Crown say, of a green rubbish bin. Within less than a minute, he is seen walking back to the lift, now empty-handed apart from a mobile phone.

At 12.15, the jury were told, Charlie Brooks texted an external security consultant, William Geddes, who three minutes later then called Mark Hanna. At 12.22, Hanna phoned Charlie Brooks. An hour passed until 13.30 when, according to cell site data, a phone attributed to Hanna started moving from News International’s old office in Wapping towards Chelsea Harbour, calling Charlie Brooks at 14.03.

The second set of images shows Mark Hanna at 14.06 driving a black Range Rover into the basement car park at Chelsea Harbour, where he is met by Charlie Brooks. Hanna parks; Brooks passes him a brown brief case and appears to gesture towards the rubbish bin area. Hanna walks out of shot towards the bin area and then returns soon afterwards carrying a Jiffy bag and a laptop as well as the brown brief case. Three other cameras in and around the car park then show him leaving the car park on foot. Cell site data suggest he arrived back in Wapping at 14.48. At 15.03, police started to search the Brooks’ flat.

At 17.04, cameras in the car park caught the police search team leaving, carrying boxes and bags. Charlie Brooks and Mark Hanna then exchanged three texts and one phone call, the jury were told. Over the following four hours, Hanna was in contact by phone and text with other members of his security team including Daryl Jorsling who was at Wapping, according to cell site data.

The fourth set of images, beginning at 21.29 showed Jorsling driving into the basement car park, taking a black bin bag from his car, walking out of shot to the area of the green rubbish bin and then walking back empty handed. The court has heard previously that the bin bag allegedly contained a brown briefcase, material that the Brookses thought was “safe to bring back.”

At 21.30, the jury heard, Jorsling made a 15 second call to Charlie Brooks. CCTV images timed at 21.31 then showed Jorsling taking two pizza boxes out of his car and handing them to a man who has been named only as Palmer, who then takes the lift from the car park up into the building.

Jorsling at 21.37 texted his team leader, Dave Johnson: “Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Pizza delivered and chicken is in the pot.”

Johnson replied: “Hah! Fucking amateurs” and suggested they should have used a ‘dead letter box’ or a ‘brush contact on the riverside’. The court has heard that the pizzas are alleged to be part of a cover story. Jorsling texted again to say he would see him in the morning, “wherever it may be, ha ha” to which Johnson replied “Another fucking magical mystery tour.”

In the small hours of the morning, at 00.31 Rebekah Brooks returned from Lewisham police station, and was caught on CCTV as she hugged her husband. The cameras were then dark until much later on the Monday morning when, having recorded the Brookses at 10.28 being driven away to their solicitors, they caught the car park cleaner, Mr Nascimento, driving his red mini-tractor, in a scene which the judge, Mr Justice Saunders, said was “a bit like the Magic Roundabout”, as he hooked four green wheely bins onto the back, like train carriages.

At 10.45, the CCTV recorded him loading a black bin bag into one of the bins behind his tractor – the bag which, the Crown allege, had been left the previous night by Daryl Jorsling. The court has heard that Mr Nascimento then alerted his superior.

Finally, the cameras captured the scene at 12.48 as Charlie Brooks arrived back from the solicitors and went to the bin area while Rebekah Brooks waited by the car. Over the next half an hour, with the Brookses upstairs in their flat, the driver walks backwards and forwards to the bin area before going out to find Daryl Jorsling outside. At 13.11, the two of them meet Charlie Brooks and a besuited official from the Chelsea Harbour complex, identified only as Mr Perkins. Mr Perkins is seen walking off camera. By 14.10, the jury were told, police had been called and had taken possession of a brown brief case and a lap top. Or, as one of the security men texted later that afternooon: “Filth all over the underground car park ref Pizzagate.”

Rebekah Brooks, Charlie Brooks and Mark Hanna deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice by concealing computers and other material from police. The trial continues.


January 15 2014

A car park cleaner yesterday described how his curiosity led him to tear open a bin bag as he did his rounds and to discover a collection of computers and paperwork which, prosecutors claim, is evidence of crime committed by Rebekah and Charlie Brooks.

Fernando Nascimento, speaking through a Portuguese interpreter, told the phone-hacking trial that he became suspicious when he saw that one of the computers in the bin bag was too new to be thrown away. He said he had not noticed a magazine called Lesbian Lovers and seven DVDs.

The Crown have told the jury that the Brookses removed items from their London apartment to frustrate a police search and then arranged for some of them to be returned to a hiding place behind rubbish bins in the basement car park where they were found by the cleaner before they could recover them. The Brookses and their security adviser, Mark Hanna, deny a charge of plotting to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Nascimento said that he had been collecting wheely bins in the car park on the morning of Monday July 18 2011, the day after police had arrested Rebekah Brooks and searched the flat which she shares with her husband at Chelsea Harbour. He had noticed that one of the bins had been pulled away from the wall and that there was a black bin bag behind it. “There was a small hole in the top of the bag,” he said. “I could see something. It was a brown bag.”

He had taken the bin bag to the loading bay. “I was curious to see what it contained. I opened it.” Inside, the jury were told, there was a brown brief case and a black shoulder bag with the logo of the World Economic Forum. Looking into the briefcase, he said, he had seen a laptop computer and decided to show his supervisor.

When they looked more closely at the two bags, they found a collection of paperwork, a jiffy bag, one laptop computer which was “a bit broken” and a second which seemed to be in much better condition. “It was strange,” Mr Nascimento said. “It was too new to be in the bin.”

Cross-examined by Neil Saunders, representing Charlie Brooks, the cleaner said he had not noticed the Lesbian Lovers magazine. “I don’t understand English so the only thing that I noticed was the lap top.”

Saunders: “Well, there were not many words on the cover of that magazine.”

There was loud laughter from the dock. Nascimento: “If I had seen it, maybe I would have taken it.”

The cleaner went on to explain that he and his supervisor had taken the bin bag to a security man who in turn had taken it to the head of facilities at the apartment block, Allen Ramsey.

Mr Ramsey then told the jury that Charlie Brooks had come to him, saying he was looking for a couple of bags which had been dropped off for him by a friend and that there had been “some kind of mix-up”. Mr Ramsey added: “At the back of my mind was the incident of the day before, which made me think twice: should I contact the police or return the property to the owner?” He said he had opted to call the police who then seized the material and also collected CCTV footage, which was played to the jury on Tuesday.

Earlier, the trial judge, Mr Justice Saunders, admonished an expert witness, David Cutts, who had given evidence claiming to establish the movements of Mark Hanna by analysing records of different “cell sites” which track the movements of mobile phones.

Mr Cutts, who is employed by the Metropolitan Police, had told the jury that four calls made by Hanna over a 41-minute period on the Sunday morning, July 17, showed he was at the Brooks’s Oxfordshire home, Jubilee Barn, but then acknowledged that his own evidence suggested that he was wrong about two of the calls. He had also told the jury that Jubilee Barn was served by three cell sites but then acknowledged that one of them was out of the barn’s range.

Mr Justice Saunders told him: “You have obviously been given a hard time in the witness box. You should bear in mind that at least three areas of your evidence were wrong and you have accepted were wrong. It is, as you well know, essential that experts are truly independent… You have failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your mistakes.” The judge suggested that in future it might become necessary for the evidence of experts to be checked.

The trial continues.