In an email to Mrs Brooks (then Wade) on 11 April 2006, a Sun journalist – who cannot be named for legal reasons – wrote: “Rebekah, sorry to disturb you but I hope you can authorise a cash payment.” He added: “I hope you can keep it anonymous because the source is a serving police officer.” No response from Mrs Brooks to the email was read to the Old Bailey.
Junior prosecution counsel Rebecca Chalkley read The Sun journalist’s email – headed “cash payments” – as she called further evidence for the prosecution’s case that while editing the Sun Mrs Brooks conspired to commit misconduct in public office by approving payments to public officials.
Brigadier John Donnelly, head of Army personnel services, told the jury that exclusive defence stories for which Mrs Brooks’s Sun had bribed a Ministry of Defence official had prematurely publicised the deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan.
The daily redtop tabloid had run exclusives on the deaths of a Victoria Cross-winning soldier, Corporal Bryan Budd, and a platoon commander who had taught Prince William at Sandhurst, Major Alexis Roberts.
Referring to The Sun’s story about Corporal Budd, Brigadier Donnelly said he would have preferred the Army’s investigation into his death to have been completed and his family to have been given the “full facts” before The Sun published on 17 February 2002.
Brigadier Donnelly told the court: “At that stage the investigation into the death of Corporal Budd had not concluded so we had not had the opportunity to fully brief the family on the outcome of the investigation.”
Brigadier Donnelly said The Sun had reported the death of Major Roberts on 6 October 2007 – in a front-page headlined ‘Wills Major Killed By Taliban’ – “before we had an opportunity to fully brief the family and they were ready for that information to go into the public domain.”
He said the Army had a duty of care to its soldiers, and that their well-being would be looked after, adding: “When information gets out into the public domain it shows that we haven’t been discreet and it undermines the trust put in us.”
Jonathan Laidlaw QC, for Mr Brooks, asked if the police who had interviewed the brigadier had shown him a Ministry of Defence press release confirming the death of Major Roberts on 4 October, on the eve of The Sun story. No, they had not, Brigadier Donnelly replied.
If they had shown him the document would he have made the comments he had made on oath about the paper a few moments earlier, Mr Laidlaw asked. ”No, provided the time [of the Army press release] is before the paper was published,” the brigadier replied.
Mrs Brooks denies conspiring to commit misconduct in public office, conspiring to hack phones and conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Her co-defendants have also pleaded not guilty to all charges.