A former reporter at the News of the World told a London court that he lied in previous cases as part of an “enormous conspiracy” to cover up phone hacking at the News Corp. tabloid.
The reporter, Dan Evans, said he invented terms such as “sticky keys” at meetings with News Corp. lawyers to explain how he had heard celebrities’ voice-mail messages. Evans is under cross-examination after two days of testimony in the case over wrongdoing at News Corp. tabloids.
Andy Coulson, the 46-year-old former editor of the weekly newspaper, listened to a message left by Sienna Miller on actor Daniel Craig’s phone, Evans testified yesterday. Coulson, who served as a media adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron after leaving the tabloid, is one of seven people on trial for offenses related to hacking, bribing public officials and destruction of evidence at the three-month old criminal trial.
“I did lie, yes,” Evans said during questioning by Coulson’s lawyer, Timothy Langdale. “I was part of the conspiracy. I’m ashamed to say that I did.”
Evans backed away from his statement yesterday that Coulson called the tape of Miller “brilliant.” Evans said today that the comment wasn’t a direct quote, but instead an effort to reflect the atmosphere of the meeting.
“The truth is,” Coulson “knows exactly what went on under his watch,” Evans said.
Langdale repeatedly attacked Evans’s credibility, calling him a “failing journalist” who didn’t succeed at the News of the World.
“You are prone to making sweeping assertions which are not based on fact,” Langdale said.
Evans said today that he lied in a 2010 police statement about hacking the phone of designer Kelly Hoppen, Miller’s stepmother. He said that the “sticky keys” phrase was first offered in that case and he continued to use it in future investigations.
“I bitterly regret that I didn’t take a braver course of action at the time,” Evans said.
Langdale said that Evans, who has pleaded guilty to phone hacking at Trinity Mirror Plc’s Sunday Mirror, sought total immunity in December 2011 in exchange for his testimony.
“Your target was to try and get away from any prosecution at all,” Langdale said.
Evans responded that he was one person “caught between the prime minister,” the tabloid world and “highly paid lawyers.”
Prosecutors refused the request for full immunity from Evans’s lawyers after several police interviews, instead offering a reduced sentence, Langdale said.
“I can pinpoint the moment I took the wrong path,” Evans said, explaining why he sought a deal with prosecutors. “I wanted to be able to look my kids in the eyes and tell them I was honest.”
Evans agreed to the plea deal in August, after changing lawyers, Langdale said.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World in July 2011 after the discovery that the newspaper accessed the voice mails of a murdered schoolgirl years earlier.
Rebekah Brooks, another former editor of the tabloid and the former head of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, is also on trial in the case. All seven defendants have pleaded not guilty and are contesting the charges.
Evans left the Sunday Mirror tabloid for News of the World nearly a decade ago after becoming tired of his primary role as a phone hacker at the Trinity Mirror publication, he said. He used alcohol and drugs to self-medicate his “depression.”
“Didn’t you say from day one” of the interview process with News of the World “you didn’t want to carry on with hacking?” Langdale asked Evans.
Evans testified Jan. 27 that he was offered the job after a meeting with Coulson at the Aldwych Hotel in London’s Covent Garden where how he could break stories through phone hacking.
“I was ambitious,” Evans said. “Sometimes ambition doesn’t bring out the most attractive traits in people.”