Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson had an affair for at least six years, a jury has heard.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told jurors at the Old Bailey that Brooks declared her love for Coulson in a letter from February 2004, when he had tried to end their relationship.
Mr Edis said: “It is clear from that letter that, as of February 2004, they had been having an affair which had lasted at least six years.” The court heard the affair dated back to around 1998, spanning the period covered by their phone-hacking conspiracy charge.
Mrs Brooks, who was editor of the News of the World (NotW) when Coulson was her deputy, wrote in the letter she loved him and that he was her best friend to whom she told everything.
Mr Edis told the jury of nine women and three men that he was not revealing the affair to deliberately intrude into the pair’s privacy or to make a “moral judgment”.
“But Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson are charged with conspiracy and, when people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is
how well did they know each other? How much did they trust each other?,” he said.
“And the fact that they were in this relationship which was a secret means that they trusted each other quite a lot with at least that secret and that’s why we are telling you about it.”
Mr Edis said of the letter: “It appears that Mr Coulson was seeking to break off the affair … and this is Mrs Brooks’ reaction to him telling her that and it is clearly obvious from the letter that it caused her a great deal of grief.”
Brooks remained with her head bowed and Coulson looked towards the prosecutor as their affair was revealed.
Mrs Brooks married her first husband, former EastEnders actor Ross Kemp in 2002, after a six-year engagement. She married her second, former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, in 2009 and they have a young daughter.
Mr Coulson married his wife Eloise in 2000 and the couple have two children.
The court heard that Brooks went on holiday to Dubai in April 2002, but remained in contact with Coulson while she was away as the newspaper planned to run a front-page story about murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Mr Edis said: “That’s why you need to have the full context of their relationship – because while she was away, she was in contact with him, we say.
“Of course, what I’ve told you may mean that they had all sorts of personal reasons for wanting to remain in contact with each other, but we say to you that it’s clear from the timing of the contact that it was at least partly work-related.”
Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; Coulson, also 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 3 October, 2000 and 9 August, 2006.
The jury has already been told that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was paid around £100,000 per year, has admitted phone hacking.
Prosecutors claim that Mulcaire, Brooks, Coulson and Kuttner were involved in a conspiracy to hack Milly’s voicemail.
The prosecutor said Milly’s family went through an “agony of hope” as they “yearned for their missing daughter” for months until her body was found in the autumn of 2002.
“The prosecution say that the NotW, through Mr Mulcaire, hacked her [Milly’s] phone during that time,” he said.
“We say that Mr Mulcaire did the hacking and Mrs Brooks, Mr Coulson and Mr Kuttner – not Mr Edmondson, he wasn’t around at that time – were criminally involved in the conspiracy which resulted from that phone hacking.”
Jurors were taken through a timeline of events that led up to a story that came from a hacked voicemail message on Milly’s phone, including phone calls from Brooks to the NotW newsdesk.