Day 79: Rebekah Brooks lived in “paranoia” that she was about to be dawn raided by police and that a picture of her in handcuffs would end up in the papers, her husband Charlie told the phone hacking trial today.
Mr Brooks said that at one stage his wife roused him from bed at 5am in the mistaken belief that detectives were about to burst into the front door of their flat at Chelsea Harbour, London – when in fact the noise outside had been bin-men.
He told the court that his wife was particularly worried that she would be caught in a “killer photograph”, pictured in handcuffs being led away by police.
Giving evidence for the first time, Mr Brooks ran through his varied career, which started as a stable lad and progressed to a racehorse trainer before he became a novelist and newspaper columnist.
Among his failures, he said, were an attempts to bring cryo-therapy to the UK and a pub venture he set up with a man he described as “Johnny the fish.”
In the more recent past, he said, he had been developing a computer game – now a slot-machine game on the Sun website – and writing equine and adventure novels for the book publisher HarperCollins.
Neil Saunders, Mr Brooks’s barrister, asked his client about the first half of 2011 leading up to the Guardian’s story on the News of the World’s hacking of Milly Dowler being published in July 2011.
While the police arrested News of the World news editor James Weatherup, Mrs Brook began to fear she would be arrested, he said.
While on holiday that month, Mrs Brooks had had conference calls with lawyers.
Mr Brooks told the court: “The advice on these conference calls was that it was highly likely she would be arrested when she arrived back at Heathrow.”
As a result of that, he and his wife changed their travel plans to reduce the risk of them being photographed being arrested, he said.
Mr Brooks explained: “Rebekah’s big paranoia was the killer photograph.”
Asked by Mr Saunders to explain what he meant, Mr Brooks said: “The killer photograph is the career-ending photo. It’s the photo of you being led away from home or Heathrow handcuffed, surrounded by police. You’re never going to get another job.”
On the night the Milly Dowler story was published on 4 July, Mr Brooks and his wife dined at the home of James Murdoch and his wife Catherine to discuss the “disgusting” allegations, which seemed to have some accuracy to them, even if they had been published and promoted by his wife’s enemies (including the MP Tom Watson, whom he said, “hates my wife”).
Explaining that “Rebekah was under the cosh and the wolves were out to get her,” Mr Brooks said that when he and his wife got home from the Murdochs’ they spent the night discussing the Dowler story.
The following night, they stayed at the Wymondham Hotel opposite Chelsea Harbour because they wanted to get a good night’s sleep and again feared arrest.
Mr Brooks told the Old Bailey: “We weren’t planning a midnight flit to Venezuela but staying in a hotel so that we didn’t have the police hammering at the door.”
“We had pretty much lived under the threat of being dawn-raided by the police,” he said.
After recalling that his wife had woken him one morning in the mistaken belief they were about to be raided, Mr Brooks said: “That was the sort of paranoia we were living under.”
Mrs Brooks, 51, and his wife deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice by allegedly hiding evidence from detectives investigating phone hacking. The trial continues.