Day 40: Pornography was in a bag allegedly stashed in an underground car park as part of a plot to frustrate detectives investigating phone hacking, Charlie Brooks’s lawyer told the phone hacking trial today.
Neil Saunders QC, said that a magazine in one of two bags found at the car park at Chelsea Harbour where Charlie and Rebekah Brooks had a flat was titled “Lesbian Lovers”. Seven DVDs were also present, the barrister told the Old Bailey – without disclosing their titles.
Laughter greeted Mr Saunders’ disclosure, as he questioned the cleaner who found a brown leather briefcase and a black laptop bag in a black rubbish bag behind a communal bin on Monday 18 July 2011. Chelsea Harbour’s facilities manager – knowing that police had searched the Brooks’s flat hours the previous day – reported the bags to the police.
Their chance discovery, say the prosecution, foiled a conspiracy by Mr and Mrs Brooks and News International’s security chief Mark Hanna to hide evidence from police when she was arrested on suspicion of phone hacking.
The cleaner, Fernando Nasciemento, confirmed that the bags contained a Sony Vaio laptop, an Apple laptop and an iPad. Mr Saunders asked him whether he whether he had opened a Jiffy Bag inside one of the bags. “If you had,” Mr Saunders told him, “you wouldn’t have forgotten it. Inside was a magazine whose titled was Lesbian Lovers.”
Mr Nasciemento, speaking through a Portuguese translator, replied: “I didn’t see.” Mr Saunders carried on: “There were also seven DVDs.” “I didn’t see anything like that,” Mr Nasciemento said, adding: “I don’t understand English, so I wouldn’t understand.” To laughter, Mr Saunders quipped: “There wasn’t much writing in the magazine.” As the laughter subsided, Mr Nasciemento replied – to louder laughter: “If I had seen it, maybe I would have taken it.”
A police data expert called by the prosecution admitted making mistakes in the location of mobile phone calls the day before the discovery of the bags. Dave Cutts, employed by the Metropolitan Police, had said that call data indicated NI’s security chief, Mr Hanna, and Mrs Brooks’s driver, Lee Sandell, had been at the Brooks’s home, Jubilee Barn in Oxfordshire, between 9.12am and 9.51am on Sunday 17 July 2011.
However under detailed cross-examination by Mr Hanna’s barrister, William Clegg, QC, Mr Cutts changed the location of the calls to nine miles away at Enstone Manor, belonging to a friend of the Brooks’s, where the Brooks’s had stayed that night.
Mr Cutts blamed “human error” for confusing the two. He also made another mistake on the call data picked up by the judge, Mr Justice Saunders.
At the end of Mr Cutts’ evidence, Mr Justice Saunders admonished Mr Cutts, saying: “It’s essential that witnesses are truly independent… you have accepted that you have made mistakes and they are vital ones.” Mr Cutts had failed to give “a satisfactory explanation” for the mistakes, the judge added.