Day 49, Part 1: Journalists on the News of the World often made up quotes for publication in stories, former NoTW reporter Dan Evans told the phone hacking trial today. Asked about comments from “friends” of Sienna Miller in a NoTW story, Evans said that it might come as a shock to the court but not everything in a tabloid newspaper was the “nailed-on” truth.
He confessed to fabricating quotes to bulk out a story and “sanitising” comments from hacked voicemails to disguise their origin.
Timothy Langdale QC, for Andy Coulson, asked Evans where he had sourced a quote in the NoTW about Ms Miller receiving “tea and sympathy” after an upset.
Evans, who hacked phones at the paper before becoming a prosecution witness, said he would routinely try to devise plausible-sounding quotes that were likely to escape legal action. He said: “One of the things you try to do when filling out a quote is think: ‘Well, what would they do?’” Irritated by a stream of questions from Mr Langdale, he told the jury: “This is just tabloid quote fluff.”
About a further quote in the story from a “friend” who “revealed”: ‘Poor Sienna was in pieces on Sunday morning. She just didn’t know who to turn to..’, Mr Langdale asked Evans: “Where’s that come from?”. “As I described,” Evans said from the witness box. “A bit of made up ‘friend said’ quotery.”
He told the Old Bailey he would disguise comments he had hacked from voicemails, saying: “I can’t write exactly what’s on the voicemail. I have to clean it up, sanitise it.” Mr Langdale asked: “You’re saying to us that that passage may be just you making this up on the basis of having heard Sienna or her sister in tears leaving a voicemail message?” Evans replied: “Pretty much.”
He had difficulty remembering any specific phone message, he said, explaining: “I did hack thousands of voicemails during the time I was at the News of the World.”
Overnight, however, he said he had realised that a voicemail about Ms Miller being “tearful” may have been left by her sister – rather than Ms Miller herself, as he had stated in his earlier police statement and testimony. Evans said: “I’ll be honest, I don’t have perfect recall about what happened a long time ago but I do want to get things right and I don’t want to mislead anybody.”
Mr Coulson, who edited the News of the World between 2003 and 2007, denies conspiring to hack voicemails. The case continues.