Day 22: Rebekah Brooks explained how to hack a mobile phone at a birthday party for the Prime Minister at a country house, the Old Bailey heard today. A close friend of David Cameron’s, Dom Loehnis, testified that Mrs Brooks had chatted about intercepting voicemails while he sat next to her during the celebration at the Prime Minister’s rural residence, Chequers, in October 2010.
Giving evidence at the phone hacking trial, Mr Loehnis said that the conversation had taken place after he had asked News International’s then chief executive whether she believed her fellow former News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, would survive as the Prime Minister’s spokesman.
Mr Loehnis said: “She said that she felt that the story would not go away and that the reason for that is that at a certain point of time people had discovered you could go into voicemails by tapping in a code… She made it clear this was in the context of journalists.”
Asked which period Mrs Brooks was referring to, Mr Loehnis replied: “It was the moment when people started to get mobile phones, and my impression was that that was the late 1990s.”
Andrew Edis, prosecuting, asked him: “Did she say anything about whether it was lawful or unlawful, or right or wrong?”
Mr Loehnis replied: “I don’t think she did.”
The court heard that Mr Loehnis, a recruitment consultant, gave his version of events of that night at the party after police found a letter from him to Mrs Brooks commiserating her on her resignation from News International in July 2011.
Jonathan Laidlaw, for Mrs Brooks, asked whether the context in which his client was speaking was that it was “common knowledge” in the 1990s that the telephone system had weaknesses.
“That’s correct,” he replied.
Mr Laidlaw asked: “She certainly didn’t say or even hint of having knowledge of phone hacking at the News of the World during her editorship?”
“No, she didn’t”, he replied.
He agreed with Mrs Brooks’s recollection that during the conversation he had been glancing at a celebratory poem which he was about to deliver in Mr Cameron’s honour.
Earlier, the court heard from Jo and Rafi Manoukian, at whose house a witness, Eimear Cook, yesterday told the court Mrs Brooks had spoken about how “easy” it was to access voicemail messages with a default PIN code.
Mrs Manoukian said she could not remember phone hacking being discussed. Nor could her husband, though he added that he had probably left the room “occasionally” to go the toilet or look for his cigarettes.
Both said that they had remained friends with Mrs Brooks, but had not seen Mrs Cook since she had contacted the police.
Mrs Brooks and all other defendants have pleaded not guilty to plotting to hack phones. The trial continues.