Day 38, Part 1: Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper group was fearful of attack and surveillance from hostile forces in 2011, the hacking trial was told yesterday. The jury at the Old Bailey heard that in the year the News of the World closed, security chief Mark Hanna swept News International’s offices for listening devices, intercepted threatening letters to executives and monitored demonstrations outside its HQ in Wapping, east London.
By July 2011, said William Clegg, QC, representing Mr Hanna, NI’s group director of security had been working for three weeks without a single day’s break. With Mrs Brooks and her husband Charlie, Mr Hanna is on trial accused of conspiring to pervert the course of justice between 15-19 July 2011 by hiding evidence from the police inquiry into phone hacking.
Painting a picture of Mr Hanna’s broad responsibilities, Mr Clegg said they ranged from ensuring the safety of fire exits to thwarting commercial espionage. Checking for bugs had become routine at News International’s HQ in Wapping, the lawyer told the court, given that newspapers were anxious to protect scoops and that the company was bidding to increase its shareholding in BSkyB.
He quoted an email sent by Mrs Brooks to general manager Will Lewis (and copied to Mr Hanna) on 25 January 2011 in which NI’s chief executive wrote: “Can we have my phones and office swept… thanks. discreetly.” Mr Clegg, asking his first questions during the three-month trial, added that Mrs Brooks’s car and flat at Chelsea Harbour were also swept.
He asked Jane Viner, NI’s head of facilities: “A perfectly routine request for an executive at that time?”, to which Mrs Viner, Mr Hanna’s line manager, replied: “Yes.” She agreed that it was Mr Hanna’s job to provide extra security to executives when necessary and that he had told her that he was intercepting suspicious letters addressed to executives.
Mr Clegg told the court that as part of his duties in 2011, Mr Hanna had employed a firm called International Corporate Protection to guard three executives: Mrs Brooks, Mr Lewis and Simon Greenberg. He added that Mrs Brooks was given the codename Black Hawk, while the other codenames were Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. By mid-July, Mr Clegg said, Mr Hanna was working long days and taking work home in the evening.
As demonstrators converged sporadically on Thomas More Square, Wapping, after the disclosure that the News of the World had hacked Milly Dowler’s phone, Mr Hanna wrote to Mrs Viner on 14 July: “I am constantly reviewing the security arrangements.”
Mr Hanna went on: “We are intercepting some executive mail in relation to threatening correspondence. We have also received similar emails.” Mr Hanna, whom the court was told was a veteran of the first Gulf War, explained that he had carried out an anti-surveillance “masking” of the perimeter of Thomas More Square.
Mrs Viner agreed with Mr Clegg that she had become concerned at his pastoral well-being, referring to it in a report she emailed to her boss, group finance director Susan Panuccio.
Mrs Viner, who previously said that Mr Hanna was trustworthy and hardworking, told the jury: “Yes, I was concerned about Mark’s welfare.”
Day 38, Part 2:
Rebekah Brooks’s husband was filmed by closed-circuit cameras going into the basement of an apartment block with an envelope and a laptop – and returning a few seconds later without either.
CCTV pictures of Charlie Brooks were shown to the jury at the phone hacking trial as evidence of an alleged plot by the Brooks’s to hide evidence from detectives investigating hacking at the News International.
The footage was shot at 12.14pm on 17 July 2011, 12 minutes after Mrs Brooks was arrested on suspicion of intercepting voicemails while at the News of the World. According to the prosecution, Mrs Brooks, Mr Brooks and NI’s head of security, Mark Hanna, plotted together to pervert the course of justice between 14 July and 19 July 2011.
Mark Bryant-Heron, for the prosecution, gave the jury at the Old Bailey a timeline of the events of 17 July.
In the morning, he said, Mrs Brooks and a security guard had travelled by car from Enstone in Gloucestershire to Lewisham police station in London where she was due to be questioned. Another associate of hers followed in a second car.
At 12.02pm, shortly after she arrived at the police station, Mrs Brooks was arrested.
The court was then shown a short burst of CCTV footage from 11.52am showing Mr Brooks and his solicitor Angus McBride arriving at Chelsea Harbour in London where the Brooks’s had a flat.
In further CCTV pictures timed at 12.14pm – 12 minutes after the arrest of his wife – Mr Brooks was seen entering the basement car park of the complex.
After apparently loitering momentarily by a pillar, Mr Brooks walked around the pillar and toward the camera carrying a Jiffy bag and a laptop computer. He then disappeared from view.
A few seconds later, at 12.15pm, Mr Brooks walked back past the camera and towards the pillar empty-handed, without the bag or the laptop.
Closing his remarks for the afternoon, Mr Bryant-Heron said that the jury would see further CCTV footage tomorrow.
Mrs Brooks, Mr Brooks and Mr Hanna deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
The case, which is expected to last for another three months, continues.