Day 41: News International’s head of security Mark Hanna told a colleague he had “burnt stuff” in his back garden around the time of the closure of the News of the World, the hacking trial heard today.
Robert Hernandez, a security officer at News International’s HQ at Wapping, told the Old Bailey his boss made the remark in a pub after the final printing of the Sunday tabloid on 9 July 2011.
Mr Hernandez said: “He mentioned one time that he dug a hole in his garden and burnt stuff.” With NI’s former chief executive Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie, Mr Hanna is accused of hiding evidence from Metropolitan Police detectives investigating phone hacking.
Mrs Brooks and her secretary, Cheryl Carter, are charged with another count of conspiring to pervert the course of justice by removing Mr Brooks’s notebooks from the company’s archives on 8 July 2011.
Giving evidence, Mr Hernandez said that shortly before midnight on Saturday 9 July he and Mr Hanna went for a drink at the Dickens Inn at St Katharine’s Dock near NI’s headquarters in Wapping.
Mr Hernandez told the jury: “Basically we were sitting down and having a drink and talking about the closure of the News of the World. Also he was just explaining how busy he was, how important his job was and how proud he was to work for the company.”
He added that Mr Hanna had explained how his job included ensuring Mrs Brooks had the correct security. About 10 to 15 minutes after discussing her but during a wider discussion about the NoW, Mr Hernandez said: “He mentioned one time that he dug a hole in his garden and burnt stuff.”
Mr Hernandez continued” “I asked him if it was papers. He didn’t reply …”
“What happened then?“, asked Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting.
Mr Hernandez said: “He just looked at me and didn’t reply and changed the conversation.”
In answer William Clegg QC, for Mr Hanna, Mr Hernandez said that he had drunk about four pints of ordinary-strength lager that night. Mr Hanna had had a bottle of wine.
It was a warm summer night, wasn’t it? Mr Clegg asked. Mr Hernandez agreed it had been.
Mr Clegg then asked: “Thinking back now, do you think it’s possible that the conversation about fire was mentioned in the context of: ‘I’d rather be having this drink in the context of a bonfire in my back garden?’”
Mr Hernandez, who is employed by a company called Advance Security and who still works at News International, replied: “No.”
Returning to the witness, Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, asked him: “What did he [Hanna] say?”
“He dug a hole in his garden and burnt stuff. I don’t know what it was. For all I know, it could have been bank statements,” Mr Hernandez replied.
During later testimony by another NI security guard, Glen Jagger, Mr Clegg asked the jury to look at a bundle of correspondence sent to the company at the time of the News of the World’s closure. There was, he said, “an extravagant barrage of insults“.
Mr Jagger agreed it was part of Mr Hanna’s job to scrutinise whether such abusive letters represented a threat to the security of Mrs Brooks.
Mr Clegg continued: “There was quite a lot of paperwork Mr Hanna had to deal with in the build up to the closure of the NoW, and Mr Hanna was in the practice of taking work home with him, and sometimes that would include paperwork… and these letters are the sort of thing he would take home with him to read?”
Mr Jagger said: “To assess. Yes.”
Mrs Brooks, Mr Brooks, Mr Hanna and Mrs Carter deny conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The case continues.