The former managing editor of the News Corp.’s News of the World said he was aware that journalists at the newspaper listened to messages on a murdered schoolgirl’s phone when he discussed the student’s disappearance with police in 2002.
Stuart Kuttner told a London criminal court today that he was unaware it was a crime to hack phones and that his first priority was to tell police that the newspaper had information that might lead to the discovery of the girl, 13-year-old Milly Dowler.
“The News of the World appeared to have, by some method, information that might lead to a missing schoolgirl,” the 74-year-old said on his second day of testimony. “It was my view, the first and right thing to do was to speak to police.”
The discovery in 2011 that Dowler’s phone had been hacked sparked a nationwide scandal that led News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch to close the tabloid. Kuttner is one of seven people on trial over wrongdoing at the newspaper.
Kuttner contacted police following Dowler’s disappearance, promising “significant information” that included a voice-mail from the teenager’s phone appearing to offer her a job.
“If it happened again today despite this, I would do it again,” Kuttner said.
Kuttner told the jury that he never asked anyone to hack Dowler’s phone and denied knowing that a private detective who worked for the publication had accessed Dowler’s messages before it happened.
Earlier today, Kuttner denied he had conspired to intercept voice-mail messages after being shown a series of payments he approved to the investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, through companies and aliases. Under questioning from his lawyer, Jonathan Caplan, Kuttner said the disbursements were part of a huge volume of financial documents he oversaw at the newspaper, then the country’s best-selling.
“There is a fundamental misunderstanding that there was some kind of device used to cook the books,” Kuttner said. “I cannot say more strongly how untrue that is.”
Mulcaire pleaded guilty to phone-hacking charges, including one related to Dowler, before the trial began. He was also jailed in 2007 for intercepting voice mails of aides to the royal family.
Kuttner said that the only time he knew of a hacked message being in possession of the tabloid was over Dowler’s disappearance.