Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News Corp. (NWSA)’s U.K. unit, almost came to tears as she told a London court about the breakdown of her first marriage to actor Ross Kemp and her affair with Andy Coulson.
Brooks, testifying for a second day at a trial over wrongdoing at News Corp. newspapers, said prosecutors exaggerated her relationship with Coulson, who followed her as editor of the company’s News of the World tabloid nearly a decade ago. She said a letter about the affair, which she described as periods of “physical intimacy,” shown at the start of the trial more than three months ago was never sent.
“Sometimes I would write things down to myself,” Brooks, 45, said. “At the time I wrote this I was in a great deal of emotional anguish as you can see. In a time of hurt, after a few glasses of wine, you shouldn’t get on a computer.”
Brooks and Coulson, 46, are among seven people on trial for charges related to phone hacking and bribes to public officials at News Corp. newspapers. A scandal triggered by revelations that reporters hacked the phone of a murdered schoolgirl led company Chairman Rupert Murdoch to close the News of the World in July 2011.
Prosecutors said during the first week of the trial that a six-year affair ending in 2004 between Brooks and Coulson was a sign of the close collaboration between the pair in their personal and professional lives. Brooks, yesterday, suggested the tryst was more a sign of the “car crash” of her relationships before she met her current husband, Charlie Brooks.
“It’s easy to blame work,” she said. “It was wrong.”
Both Brooks and her husband are charged with destroying evidence at the height of the phone-hacking scandal in 2011.
Before talking about Coulson, she discussed her first marriage to Kemp, an actor, which ended in 2005. She asked the judge for a break as she told the court about her attempts to have children.
“Ross was a good man, but the two of us weren’t meant to be and certainly Andy and I weren’t meant to be,” Brooks said. “When I met Charlie, I was happy for the first time.”
Brooks’s first two days of testimony have also provided a window into how Murdoch ran his four newspapers in the U.K. Brooks said that the editors of the publications all had to make pitches directly to the company chairman for budget increases.
“You had four editors trying to get the biggest cut of the pot,” Brooks said yesterday.
Earlier this week, Brooks described her first meeting with Murdoch as a senior journalist. He advised her to keep her head down and work hard.
“He was particularly keen for me to take a strict path on any kind of publicity,” Brooks said. Murdoch doesn’t like his “editors spouting forth their opinions” on TV or radio, she said. “I made the fatal error of telling him” a magazine wanted to interview her and “his reaction was very grim.”
Judge John Saunders told jurors on Feb. 20 to acquit Brooks of a bribery charge related to allegations she approved a payment for a photo taken of Prince William at a party in a bikini. The judge said there was considerable uncertainty about where the picture came from.
For a second day, Brooks distanced herself from the activities of the private detective at the center of the phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World.
Brooks said she was never told about the 92,000-pound ($153,000) contract given by the News of the World to Glenn Mulcaire to hack telephones while she was editor of the weekly tabloid. She said she should have been aware of a contract of that size as part of her oversight of the now defunct newspaper’s 23.4 million-pound editorial budget. Mulcaire has pleaded guilty to phone hacking.
Brooks, who earlier this week said the News of the World’s investigation unit wasn’t established to access voice-mail messages, described how the tabloid used a reporter posing as a fake sheikh to uncover a story about a countess offering her public relations clients access to the royal family.
The story was never printed because the reporter could only link Wessex’s business partner to the scam.
Inside the Law
“We have got to learn some lessons,” Brooks said in an e-mail to head of the investigations unit, Greg Miskiw, a News of the World editor who has pleaded guilty to phone hacking in the current case. “As I said all our entrapment and subterfuge must be justified 110 percent. We have to” be “so careful and make sure everything we do is inside the law.”
Coulson, a former editor of the News of the World. went on to become a press aide to Prime Minister David Cameron.
Stuart Kuttner, the former managing editor of the News of the World, is accused of phone hacking. The newspaper’s one-time royal reporter, Clive Goodman, is charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
Brooks’s husband, Charlie, her former assistant Cheryl Carter, and the U.K. unit’s former head of security, Mark Hanna, face charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. All seven have pleaded not guilty to the charges.