Day 35, Part 1: Rebekah Brooks’s PA, Cheryl Carter, was arrested by detectives days before she was about to board a plane to emigrate to Australia, the phone hacking trial heard today. Police suspected that the move to Australia was a reward for removing Mrs Brooks’s notebooks covering the period when hacking was rife at the News of the World, the jury was told.
The removal of the archived notebooks at the height of the hacking scandal two years ago forms a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice charge against Mrs Brooks and Mrs Carter, her long-serving personal assistant.
Seven boxes of material logged “All notebooks from Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) 1995-2007″ were delivered urgently from NI’s archive in Enfield to its Wapping HQ a few miles away on Friday 8 July 2011, a day before the News of the World rolled off the presses for the last time.
Mrs Carter later told the archivist Nick Mays that the notebooks belonged to her and Deborah Keegan, another of Mrs Brooks’s assistants, rather than to Mrs Brooks herself.
Giving evidence, Mrs Carter’s son Nick Carter, 23, said he, his mother and Mrs Keegan’s husband Gary had collected the boxes from the basement of Thomas More Square, Wapping, and loaded them into his car. He had then driven them to the Carter family home and plonked them inside, probably on the landing.
Mr Carter, an administrative assistant at News International, said that he had no idea what was in the boxes and did not ask his mother.
Trevor Burke QC, representing Mrs Carter, reminded him that when the police had interviewed him in late 2011 they had suggested that his family’s imminent emigration to Australia was a reward for his mother’s help in removing the boxes.
Mr Burke then went through the family’s long preparations for the move, which, he suggested, had dated back to at least February 2007 when the family was granted a five-year visa for entry to Australia.
Mrs Carter had not enjoyed life on the corporate floor of News International upon Mrs Brooks’s promotion to chief executive in 2009, he told the Old Bailey, and she had begun to hanker for a move back to the Sun.
Mr Burke went on: “With the closure in July 2011 of the News of the World and your mother losing her job the family proposed to emigrate.” Mr Burke asked Mr Carter: “Were you aware that your mother had a job interview on Mr Murdoch’s newspaper, The Perth Times, where she was looking for a job as a secretary?” Mr Carter said he had not.
Mrs Carter was arrested on 6 January 2012, three weeks before the family were due to board flights to Perth on 26 January 2012. That was shortly before their five-year visa was to expire, Mr Burke told the court.
Day 35, Part 2: Only three of 30 notebooks found in seven boxes of material withdrawn from News International’s archives the day before the News of the World closed belonged to Rebekah Brooks, her personal assistant told the police.
Cheryl Carter, who worked for Mrs Brooks for 16 years, gave the explanation after she was arrested at dawn at her home in Billericay, Essex. In July 2011 Mrs Carter arranged for the removal of the seven boxes logged: ”All notebooks from Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) 1995-1997″ from NI’s archives in Enfield.
Police claim that she was part of a conspiracy with Mrs Brooks to hide evidence from the police inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World – which Mrs Brooks edited between 2000 and 2003. However Mrs Carter told police in her interview that most of the approximately 30 notebooks in the boxes had been hers, rather than Mrs Brooks.
After throwing most of her own notes into her recycling box at home, she had returned the small amount of Mrs Brooks’s belongings to her office at News International. Of her boss’s possessions, she said: “I noticed that there was three of Rebekah’s pads [notebooks], there was one diary, there was some photographs and there were some speeches.”
Asked who had originally told the archive the boxes were Rebekah Brooks’s, Mrs Carter replied: “I wouldn’t have said my old notebooks. I would have put them down as Rebekah’s because that was my office.”
She suggested that the company’s archivist had called her twice in April or May 2011 to ask for her to remove the boxes because of a lack of storage space. In his interview with the police, the archivist rejected this. Nick Mays said: “I did not call Cheryl Carter to remove any boxes from Enfield.”
He noted that Mrs Carter said that most of the material in the boxes was hers or that of another personal assistant, rather than Mrs Brooks’s.
Given that the archivist had no interest in the content of the boxes, Detective Sergeant John Massey asked: why did she say that? Mrs Carter replied: “I do not know. I can’t answer that. I don’t know.”
She said that despite having a close relationship with Mrs Brooks, she was unaware she was about to resign and had no forewarning that the News of the World was about to close.
She said that Mrs Brooks had been a good boss to her, adding: “She was tough. She shouted a lot.”
Three weeks after the interview, Mrs Carter had been intending to emigrate to Australia. Asked what she would be doing there, she replied: “Well they said maybe I can have a job at the Sunday Times, Perth.” The Sunday Times in Perth is owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Mrs Carter and Mrs Brooks both deny conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The case continues.
Other Trial reports
Lisa O’Carroll, “Rebekah Brooks’s PA told police she disposed of 30 of her own notebooks“
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