Day 116: The judge today reminded the jury that the boss of a recruitment agent who left a hacked message on Milly Dowler’s phone firmly remembered being called about it by the paper’s managing editor, Stuart Kuttner.
Mr Justice Saunders raised Mark Hancox’s recollection of the call he received from the News of the World in April 2002 as he summed up the evidence about the paper’s hacking of the teenager, full name Amanda.
He reminded the jury that after accidentally dialling her phone, Mondays recruitment agency in the Midlands had left a message for a woman called ‘Nana’ about a job interview. That led the News of the World, which had intercepted the message, to believe the 13-year-old was alive and well and working at a computer factory in Telford.
Instead of immediately contacting the police, on Friday 12 April, the News of the World’s acting news editor Neville Thurlbeck – who had ordered the hack earlier in the week – sent a six-strong team of reporters and photographers to Telford to check out the story.
When they could find no sign of Milly, the search for the front-page exclusive was called off at about 4pm on Saturday 13 April.
Mr Justice Saunders told the jury that Mr Kuttner’s position was that he had told Surrey police about the voicemail at 3.11pm on that Saturday as soon as he had found out about it, because he was aware of the Dowlers’ anguish and would have wanted them to know about the development immediately.
However, the judge pointed out that the News of the World reporters in Telford had tried to get in touch with the owners of Mondays recruitment, Valerie Hancox and her son Mark, on the morning of that Saturday, 13 April.
Mr Justice Saunders told the jury: “Their evidence, which was read to you, was important.”
He said that in her statement, Valerie Hancox had said that a reporter plus a photographer had turned up at her house “and he [the reporter] said the News of the World were assisting the police in their inquiries into Milly Dowler.
The Judge went on
“That was in the morning. “Mark Hancox was also… contacted by a reporter. Mr Hancox said he was rung by a man who was an editor, editor in chief or important person at the News of the World.”
The judge said Mr Hancox had been unable to remember who he had spoken to at the News of the World, adding: “Subsequently he listened to the voices of executives who gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry and he recognised the voice of Stuart Kuttner.”
The judge told the jury the words Mr Hancox had used in his statement to the court: “I will never forget his voice. I am sure it was the same man.”
Mr Justice Saunders went on:
“He [Mr Hancox] said when he was given the name of the man speaking on the tape, he remembered it was the same name he had been given in 2002. So the evidence that he gave you was that Stuart Kuttner must have known about the voicemail in the morning.”
About the paper’s editor, Rebekah Brooks, the judge said phone records indicated that she had received no calls from the News of the World prior to Thurlbeck commissioning Mulcaire’s hack on or by Wednesday 10 April.
However she did have phone call conversations with her deputy, Andy Coulson, before a story about the hacked voicemail was published in the News of the World that Sunday, 14 April.
She had also returned to the office in the week when the paper’s ongoing investigation into Milly appeared on its news list – and the following Saturday, when Mr Kuttner wrote to Surrey Police querying their lack of co-operation with the paper’s investigation.
Mr Justice Saunders told the jury:
“Mrs Brooks’ case is that she was told nothing about the Milly Dowler voicemail while in Dubai and had she done so, she would have said that the police must be immediately informed. If she didn’t know in advance, the prosecution say it must be that she agreed to what they had done when she found out.”
A witness in holiday with Mrs Brooks in Dubai, William Hennessey, had remembered her going off to make a phone call about a “missing Surrey schoolgirl,” saying that it was “important,” the judge said.
He asked the jury to consider whether it was likely that staff at the News of the World had hidden the hacking from Mrs Brooks.
Turning to Mr Coulson, the judge summarised his position as being that he had not known about the hacking, did not believe he had known abut the sending of staff to Telford, but did agree that he had downgraded the story about Milly in later editions of the News of the World – to improve the “mix” of the paper.
On the sending of the reporting team to Telford, the judge referred to Mr Coulson’s testimony that he could not “micro-manage” the paper.
He asked the jury to consider whether Thurlbeck, who was instructed by the editor, would not have told Mr Coulson about the voicemail or the deployment of reporters.
“The prosecution say it simply can’t be right, because it means that despite the conferences on the Friday and the Saturday he was not aware of the voicemail. He [Mr Coulson] said Stuart Kuttner and Neville Thurlbeck were perfectly capable of acting on their own without consulting the editor.”
The court broke early, because a juror was suffering from a migraine. She was asked to call the court tomorrow morning to say how she was feeling.
All defendants deny the charges.