UK & World News

  • 16 April 2014, 20:05

Coulson Tells Trial He Heard Hacked Voicemail

Former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson has told a jury he heard voicemail messages hacked from David Blunkett's phone.

The 46-year-old told the Old Bailey the paper's then-chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, phoned him to say Mr Blunkett, who was Home Secretary at the time, was having an affair with a married woman.

He said Mr Thurlbeckhad told him he "believed the story was true" after listening to voicemail messages.

Coulson, 46, who denies the charges against him, said he was on holiday in Italy when he took the call.

His initial reaction was one of "shock and anger" at a "direct breach of privacy", he said.

During his third day in the witness box, Coulson told the court: "I was on my way to the airport to collect my brother who was coming to stay with us. I was lost, I remember that, and I parked up on the side of the road to take the call.

"Neville told me he had a tip that David Blunkett was having an affair with Kimberly Fortier. He said he believed the story was true because he heard some voicemails.

"I was shocked because he told me he had heard some voicemail messages. I was shocked he was telling me this as well because it was in relation to David Blunkett, the Home Secretary.

"I was quite angry about it. I used reasonably colourful language, words to the effect: 'What on Earth do you think you're doing?'

"My concern was it was an apparent breach of privacy and I was concerned also that this was involving somebody who I knew. He was somebody we were broadly supportive of."

Coulson, who later became Downing Street's director of communications, told the court he ordered the reporter to stop the investigation.

However, he said that on his return,his former colleague went to the News Of The World (NOTW) offices to repitch the Blunkett story, saying it was in the public interest and playing the messages to try to convince him of that point.

The revelations were made as the journalist's barrister, Timothy Langdale QC, asked him about the NOTW's relationship with Mr Blunkett which, Coulson said, was good.

Coulson said the more he listened, the more he started to think there was "some public interest justification" in the story but he wanted time to think about it.

He told the court he later decided it was in the public interest because Mr Blunkett was "distracted" by the affair and, Coulson argued, sharing sensitive information.

Coulson insisted he had no previous knowledge of voicemail hacking, adding: "I remained shocked. This was the first and only time a voicemail had been played to me."

Coulson, of Charing, Kent, denies conspiring to hack phones with Rebekah Brooks and former managing editor Stuart Kuttner.

He also denies conspiring with ex-royal editor CliveGoodman to commit misconduct in a public office.

All seven defendants in the phone hacking trial deny the charges against them and the case continues.

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