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Jury hears investigator 'blag' call
Jurors in the trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-spin doctor Andy Coulson have been played a recording of "accomplished blagger" Glenn Mulcaire getting a voicemail password reset by a mobile phone company.
In the brief recording Mulcaire, who has already pleaded guilty to charges of phone hacking, contacts O2 to ask for a voicemail reset - a method it is alleged could be used to access people's voicemails.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the court: " He gives the woman who works for the company a network password, albatross, which he has got from somewhere.
"He really knows how it works, he knows the right things to say, and he is quite chatty and she doesn't seem at all troubled."
Continuing his case opening, which started yesterday at the Old Bailey, Mr Edis said other than a few "taskings" by the News of the World in 1999, the first dated tasking of Mulcaire by the newspaper was January 8, 2001.
He said an investigations team at the now-defunct tabloid was set up by Rebekah Brooks when she became editor, and both Mulcaire and former NotW journalist Greg Miskiw, who has also pleaded guilty to hacking, were part of it.
Mulcaire was paid a weekly fee until September 2001 when he moved onto a written contract, Mr Edis said.
The court heard yesterday that the private investigator was paid around £100,000 a year for his services.
"It is if course part of the prosecution case that a contract like that, a big contract, involves the senior management, in this case the editor, the deputy editor and the managing editor, the three defendants whom you have to try for phone hacking in addition to Mr Edmondson - that is Rebekah Brooks, Andrew Coulson and Stuart Kuttner."
Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; Coulson, 45, from Charing in Kent; former NotW head of news Ian Edmondson, 44, from Raynes Park, south west London; and the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex, all deny conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.
The court has heard that they "must have known" that hacking was going on at the newspaper.
And today Mr Edis said Mulcaire's contract would also have been known about by management.
"It was not hidden from anybody that he was being paid all that money because of course the money has to go through an accounting system, it is budgeted for, it's seen.
"The question is, didn't anybody ever ask, what are we paying this chap for?"
He added: "So what was it that he was doing? Well, we know that he was a phone hacker and we know that he was a good one, and we know that he was an accomplished blagger."
The court heard that the police investigation into phone hacking in 2011 was sparked by the discovery of three emails that News International gave to officers.
The messages were from Mulcaire to Edmondson, and it is alleged they were about hacking phones linked to Tessa Jowell and David Mills; Lord Frederick Windsor, son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent; and an adviser to John Prescott.
The first message, on April 20 2006, referred to Jowell and Mills, at a time when Mills had been accused of involvement in bribery linked to former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi.
It said: "Substantial traffic both ways, also looks like she's selling up."
Mr Edis told the jury: "You're going to have to decide in Mr Edmondson's case what you make of that, whether it can possibly mean anything at all other that 'I've been phone-hacking Tessa, and this is what I've found out'."
Another message, from April 27 2006, referred to Lord Frederick Windsor, and contained a reference to "press * and Pin", which prosecutors say was Mulcaire telling Edmondson how to hack a phone.
The third email refered to an adviser to former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, who was at the centre of a publicity storm because he was accused of having an affair.
Prosecutors claim that Edmondson must have known that Mulcaire was hacking phones.
Referring to the alleged targeting of MP Ms Jowell and her husband Mr Mills, Mr Edis said: "We know what Mr Mulcaire was doing, he was phone hacking.
"Look how much contact there is at this time between Mr Edmondson and Mr Mulcaire.
"Do you think it is likely or even possible that Mr Edmondson did not know what was being done by Mr Mulcaire?
"We know that Edmondson was interested in Tessa Jowell, he was investigating Tessa Jowell, and we know that he was in communication with Mr Mulcaire.
"We know that Mr Mulcaire hacked Tessa Jowell's phone and listened to her messages."
Mr Edis went on: "This was an important story.
"It wasn't something that was stuck after the letters page, this was big stuff."
The prosecutor said it was the editor's duty to ask "How do I know this information is true?" when stories were going to appear in the newspaper.
"Mr Coulson was editor at this time," he told the jury.
The jury heard that the newspaper went about trying to get a "scoop" about Lord Prescott's affair with his secretary Tracey Temple in April 2006.
Mr Edis described a series of phone calls, emails, and phone hacks that he said was Mulcaire trying to get information at the behest of the NotW.
The jury also heard that journalists at the paper, including James Weatherup - who has already pleaded guilty to hacking charges - and Coulson, discussed trying to contact Ms Temple to offer her £100,000 for her story.
Records showed that they then tried to hack the phone of Lord Prescott's special adviser Joan Hammell.
The court was told the NotW hacked journalists from rival paper the Mail on Sunday - Dennis Rice and Sebastian Hamilton - to find out what information they had on the story.
"This was all about finding out how the competition were getting on with the story because, of course, you don't want to be scooped," Mr Edis said.
"One nice easy cheap way of finding out what they know is to hack their phone so that the competition don't get to steal a march on you.
"In the dog eat dog world of journalism, in a frenzy to get this huge story or try to get something better or at least as good as what everyone else has got, that's what you do, perhaps, if you are Ian Edmondson. You hack the competition."
Mr Edis said that when the News of the World found out the Mail on Sunday was hoping to run the story, the paper concluded: "We are going to spoil that by doing our own story.
"We know how they were planning to do the spoiler - it was by hacking other journalists."
The court heard how Lord Frederick Windsor, son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, was also a victim of phone hacking by the News of the World in April 2006.
Mr Edis described communication between Edmondson and Mulcaire that it is alleged were about hacking the royal's phone.
"We are not saying that each call is necessarily about hacking," the prosecutor told the court, "all we are saying is there is an awful lot of contact.
"While Mulcaire is beavering away in his office ... he is regularly receiving instructions and reporting to Mr Edmondson."
The jury heard that Mulcaire managed to get Lord Windsor's mobile phone number by "blagging" and then proceeded to hack his voicemails.
Mr Edis said: "What we are suggesting here is that these emails clearly show that Mr Edmondson tasks Mr Mulcaire on that day to hack Windsor."
Mr Edis said that Mulcaire had begun hacking Lord Windsor's phone just minutes after allegedly speaking with Edmondson.
"He is a quick worker - you might think he is worth £100,000 a year if you know that, but not worth much at all if you don't," the prosecutor said.
Mr Edis told the jury it was not a secret among journalists at the NotW that Mulcaire worked for the paper.
He told how a story had even appeared in the red top in August 2002 in which Mulcaire had been interviewed after a football match, where he was described as working for the paper's special investigations team.
"This paper only comes out once a week, you might expect the editor to read it," he said.
"But the point is, even if she (Brooks) did not happen to notice this particular article, it wasn't a secret, was it?"
Mr Edis told jurors: "You're going to have to form a view about how much pressure there was on journalists at the NotW to get stories, so that they strayed sometimes into crime in order to do it.
"And also how much the editor was involved in the whole process."
The newspaper had a succesful year in 2004, but management were not happy with the performance in 2005, the court heard.
Jurors were read an email from Kuttner to Miskiw in September 2000, warning him that he was 43% overspent nine weeks into the financial year.
Messages were sent to senior staff in June 2001, saying they would have to get "formal approval from the editor for spending outside their limits".
They were warned that there would be "the most severe consequences" if they exceeded their budgets.
Mr Edis said that Brooks, Kuttner and Coulson were working together to rein in spending.
He said: "We can see the three of them operating as a management team, trying to keep these groups of journalists within budget."
Brooks' instructions about controlling spending were reiterated that month, and she wrote to Miskiw and former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck telling them that any payments over £1,000 would have to be authorised by herself, Kuttner or Coulson.
Mr Edis told the court that Kuttner warned them he would be "unavoidably tough", saying: "The palmy days of indulgence are over."
The prosecutor told the court: "That's the point which we say generates the inference that they must have known what was going on with Mr Mulcaire.
"What on earth do they think they are doing if they did not know? The money was going out of the paper. Where was it going? Did they care? Well, yes, they did."
The court heard that in August 2001, when rules about how regular contributors were paid changed, Mulcaire was a "major exception".
Mr Edis said: "If people knew that Mr Mulcaire was committing crimes on behalf of the NotW or engaged in unacceptable activity on behalf of the NotW, then they would quickly understand that he had to be deniable."
Jurors were told that Kuttner authorised 221 separate payments totalling £413, 527 to Mulcaire "over the years", amounting to 72% of what Mulcaire earned during that time.