Day 87: A senior News of the World executive lent his personal support to a reporter arrested for phone hacking because he and News International liked to help senior staff in difficulty, he told the Old Bailey today.
Former managing editor Stuart Kuttner was explaining his actions in the days following the arrest of the paper’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, at dawn in August 2006 on suspicion of intercepting the voicemail messages of royal aides.
In his evidence, Mr Goodman told the court that Mr Kuttner had driven him home from a London police station, handed him £100 and later arranged for the delivery of £1,000 cash and made personal visit to his home.
Giving evidence for the second day today, Mr Kuttner explained that he had been “shocked” to arrive at work in Wapping on 8 August 2006 to find police officers searching Mr Goodman’s desk.
The response of Mr Kuttner, managing editor of the News of the World for 22 years, to the discovery that they were investigating phone hacking was shock.
“I had no suspicion whatsoever,” he said. “It was a complete and inexplicable surprise. I didn’t understand what was going on.”
Asked why he drove Mr Goodman home from Charing Cross police station on his release from custody, Mr Kuttner told the court:
“I regarded one of my responsibilities at the newspaper – as I hope others will attest if necessary – to put an arm around staff at a time of difficulty. And here was a senior reporter in difficulty, wherever the responsibility lay, and that’s what I did.”
Mr Kuttner added: “Newspapers are traditionally very good at supporting their own.”
Asked what they had discussed during the journey, he said that as far as he could remember any conversation was “pretty desultory” because Mr Goodman was “tired and shocked.”
Explaining his later visit to Mr Goodman’s on 10 August, Mr Kuttner said: “Here we have a member of staff who was embroiled in something we didn’t understand, and just as when I had an accident at work and the company for several months was very supportive of me, we wanted to demonstrate that we supported him.”
He made a contemporaneous note of the meeting, in which he recorded that Mr Goodman had said that the paper’s private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, had approached him and offered to introduce him to a “spook”; there was also a reference to “eavesdropping on information obtained from the secret services.”
Mr Kuttner’s note – read to the court – also included the sentences: “Told Andy this from the start” and “CG warned that [another person] doing same thing”.
Mr Kuttner said he could not explain what it all meant, telling the court: “I was simply jotting down what Clive Goodman told me. It made little sense to me and frankly still does make little sense to me.”
He said that he had not known about any phone hacking at the paper before the arrest of Mr Goodman and Mulcaire.
But he agreed he had written to Surrey police about a voicemail message left on the mobile phone of the missing 13-year old Milly Dowler.
Mr Kuttner’s QC, Jonathan Caplan, asked: “Had you been involved personally in accessing her voicemail?”, to which he responded: “Absolutely not.”
Asked: “Who do you think told you that the fact that her voicemail had been accessed?”, Mr Kuttner replied: “This has to be speculation but documentation I have seen indicates that it was a News of the World staff member called Neville Thurlbeck, but I don’t know that for a fact.”
Mr Kuttner, 74, told the court that two heart attacks and a brain stem cell stroke had left “gaps” in his memory.
He, Andy Coulson, News of the World editor between 2003 and 2007, and Rebekah Brooks, editor between 2000 and 2003, deny conspiring to hack phones. The case continues.