FORMER News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks authorised payments to a Ministry of Defence official for details of soldiers killed in action before they were officially released, a court heard yesterday.
The jury at the Old Bailey heard the ex-Sun and News of the World (NotW) editor also allegedly authorised journalists to pay a member of the armed forces for a picture of Prince William wearing a bikini.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC outlined the details as part of the charges Brooks is facing for allegedly conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office. Brooks denies the charges, as well as phone hacking.
Mr Edis yesterday told the jury that in 2006, while editor of the Sun, Brooks authorised payments to be made to an official who gave details about dead soldiers before they were officially announced by the MoD.
The court was told about a series of e-mails to Brooks asking for authorisation for various cash payments, all said to have been approved by her.
“These are e-mails which reveal what Mrs Brooks knew when she authorised the payments and the fact that she did authorise the payments, and we know from the timeline what the payments refer to and the fact that they were made.
“The prosecution suggest that in behaving in that way, Mrs Brooks was involved in a conspiracy to commit the criminal offence of misconduct in a public office and that she knew it.”
The court heard Brooks also authorised a journalist at the Sun to pay a member of the armed forces for a picture of Prince William dressed in a bikini.
In June 2006, she was asked to authorise a cash payment of £4,000 for the picture of the royal, who was at a party dressed as a Bond girl, the court was told.
Mr Edis said an e-mail from the journalist was forwarded to Brooks, which said: “My best contact at Sandhurst who has provided some great stuff over a period of months is offering us a picture of William at a James Bond party dressed as a Bond girl. He is wearing a bikini and an open Hawaiian shirt.”
The court heard how the NotW used phone hacking to get stories on the royals, including a claim that Prince Harry broke rules at Sandhurst by asking an aide for help with an essay.
Mr Edis said that a story in the now-defunct tabloid, titled “Harry’s aide helps out on Sandhurst exams”, came from a voicemail illegally accessed by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for former royal editor Clive Goodman.
Jurors heard the story had come from the voicemail message left by Prince Harry for his private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, a former member of the armed forces, asking for information to help with an essay.
The court heard the prince asked his aide if he “had any information at all” about the Iranian embassy siege – the scene of a British special forces operation in 1980 – adding: “Because I need to write an essay quite quickly on that but I need some extra info. Please, please e-mail it to me or text me.”
The tabloid also obtained information about Prince William getting “shot” during a training exercise in Aldershot, jurors were told.
Mr Edis said: “William found himself in the wrong place during a night exercise so he got shot, pretend shot.
“There is a voicemail, recording of a voicemail, in which Prince William says something about that. So it’s a phone hack.”
Prosecutors claim Goodman paid for two copies of a royal telephone directory from palace police officers, with the funds allegedly authorised by Andy Coulson.
Mr Edis also told the court how Coulson had ordered “do his phone”, as the newspaper tried to investigate a story about Calum Best son of footballer George Best.
Brooks, 45, of Oxfordshire; Coulson, also 45, from Kent; former NotW head of news Ian Edmondson, 44, from south-west London; and the tabloid’s ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Essex, all deny conspiring with others to hack phones between 2000 and 2006.
The case continues.