Day 76: Rebekah Brooks’s PA was urgently trying to contact a News International archivist on the day the News of the World’s closure was announced because she wanted to withdraw boxes containing clippings about her career in the beauty industry, the hacking trial heard today.
Giving evidence for the first time, Cheryl Carter rebuffed the Crown’s accusation that she and Mrs Brooks had conspired at the height of the hacking scandal in July 2011 to pervert the course of justice by concealing Mrs Brooks’s notebooks from detectives.
Instead she said she was ensuring she had cuttings of her own beauty column in the Sun because she had been under pressure to free up space in the company’s storage facility.
On 8 July 2011 prosecution and defence agree that Mrs Carter requested the removal from News International’s archives in Enfield, north London, of seven boxes marked “All notebooks Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) 1995 – 2007”.
The boxes were delivered later that Friday to the newspaper group’s headquarters in Wapping, east London, a day before the News of the World was printed for the last time.
The Crown suggests they were withdrawn in an attempt to stop detectives seeing evidence of Mrs Brook’s journalism during a period which covered phone hacking at the NoW, which she edited between 2000 and 2003.
However today Mrs Carter, PA to Mrs Brooks between 1996 and 2011, told the Old Bailey the boxes mostly contained 30 of her own notebooks containing her beauty column and other notes on beauty products.
She explained they had been archived in September 2009 because Mrs Brooks was moving to a “paper-less” office as chief executive and that she had not told explained to her boss what she as doing because she would not have been interested.
She added that although she had not labelled the boxes as containing her boss’s notebooks she “responsible” for the way they had been labelled. This was because she was aware that her own material would not have been important enough to be archived, and she had put a Post-It note on the boxes to show they included two of Mrs Brooks’ notebooks – a 1995 notebook and an A5 hardback notebook from 2007.
Answering questions from her QC Trevor Burke, Mrs Carter told the jury that she first tried to remove the boxes on 7 July.
At 10.30am that day, email records show, she messaged a company archivist: “Urgent can you call me please.”
However she told the court that she did not know at that time that James Murdoch was going to announce the closure of the NoW that afternoon, and she had only wanted to withdraw the boxes because she believed she was under pressure to free up space in the archive.
On 13 May 2011 the archivist Nick Mays had inquired whether Mrs Carter wanted to keep copies of front-pages a former PA of Mrs Brooks had archived eight years previously.
Asked how she had interpreted that email, Mrs Carter told the court: “He wants all of our stuff out of the archive.”
On Friday 8 July, Mrs Carter spoke to Mr Mays, who couriered the seven archived boxes to her that afternoon – quicker than the usual next day delivery service.
Asked by Mr Burke whether she had had anything to do with the same-day retrieval, Mrs Carter told the court: “No, not at all.”
She confirmed that she had planned to emigrate to Australia after she had taken voluntary redundancy from NI at the end of July 2011.
“James Murdoch put in a word for me”, she said of a prospective job at a newspaper there, stressing the position would initially have been “as a messenger or a junior secretary.”
She added that in July 2011 Mrs Brooks had paid for Mrs Carter and her family to fly to Australia. Mrs Carter told the court she thought was “a thank-you” for 16 years of service.
She and Mrs Brooks deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Mrs Carter, 49, is expected to continue giving evidence tomorrow.