A former assistant to Rebekah Brooks, who said she helped run every part of her life, told a London jury she didn’t think her boss or her notebooks would be “of interest” to police at the height of the phone-hacking scandal.
The assistant, Deborah Keegan, helped pack-up boxes in 2009 from Brooks’s old office at News Corp.’s U.K. headquarters that police say went missing in the days before Brooks’s arrest in July 2011. Keegan testified today that she didn’t equate media interest in the case with the police investigation into phone hacking.
Brooks, 45, is one of seven people on trial over wrongdoing at the company’s British publications. Prosecutors are focusing on destruction-of-evidence charges after the first two months of the case concerned bribes to public officials and the interception of voice-mail messages.
The discovery on July 4, 2011, that a murdered school girl’s phone had been hacked in 2002 by the News of the World triggered public outrage that led News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch to close the tabloid and to at least three police investigations.
While Keegan said she wasn’t aware of police interest, she was copied on an e-mail sent to Brooks on July 5, 2011, outlining security plans, including sleeping arrangements, following the revelations about the teenager, Milly Dowler.
“It may be worth switching vehicles for the next few days,” Mark Hanna, the company’s former head of security who is also on trial for obstruction of justice, said in the July 5 e-mail. “If this is a media only concern I believe this should suffice. If police concern, we put in place the previous plan of entry and exit teams.”
Keegan’s former colleague Cheryl Carter, 49, is also on trial for her part in an alleged cover-up that saw seven boxes of notebooks removed from the London-based company’s archives before Brooks was arrested.
Keegan sent Carter an e-mail on July 14, 2011, that showed the assistants were searching for Brooks’s bank records stretching as far back as 2002 as the scandal gathered pace, prosecutors said.
Keegan, who testified that she has had chaperoned meetings with Carter “five or six times” since Carter was charged, packed up the material from Brooks’s old office at the Sun newspaper over a weekend after the then-editor of the daily tabloid was named chief executive officer of News Corp.’s U.K. unit in 2009.
Brooks “said she expected the office to be running smoothly on the Monday morning,” Keegan, who isn’t charged with a crime, testified today. “How we got there was our business.”
Carter removed the boxes from the archive on July 8, 2011, the same day Andy Coulson, a former editor of the News of the World also charged in the case, was arrested.
Prosecution lawyer Andrew Edis showed Keegan a list of the contents of five of the boxes that went missing from the archives.
During two days of testimony, Keegan said she worked 12-hour days and did Brooks’s shopping as part of her job.
Carter said in police interviews that most of the material belonged to her, dating back to her role as a beauty columnist for the Sun. Only some of it was Brooks’s, which she later returned to the company’s headquarters.
Jane Viner, the head of facilities at News Corp.’s U.K. unit, told the court today that she saw Brooks being escorted from the office July 15, 2011.
Brooks left the office accompanied by a member of security looking “sad and upset” with her handbag, a small canvas bag and her disabled Blackberry phone, Viner said.
“It was a very uncomfortable moment,” she said.