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Rebekah Brooks: My life was ‘a bit of car crash’

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  • by RUSSELL JACKSON
 

FORMER News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks laid bare details of her “car crash” personal life as she gave evidence about the inner workings of the now defunct News of the World (NotW).

The 45-year-old continued giving evidence in her defence at the Old Bailey yesterday, becoming emotional as she faced questions about her relationships with former EastEnders star Ross Kemp, her former deputy Andy Coulson and current husband Charlie Brooks, and her difficulties becoming a mother.

Her barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw, QC, apologised for having to question her about her love life, including her relationship with actor Kemp and her affair with Coulson, who later became David Cameron’s spin doctor.

She met Kemp in 1995 and they became engaged the following year but split in 1997.

A year later, they rekindled their relationship and by 2001 they talked about children and marriage.

Mr Laidlaw said, “I’m sorry I have to do this” and Brooks lowered her voice as she spoke about children.

The court heard the couple eventually split in 2005, but it was, she said, amicable.

Brooks added: “I am sure if Ross was here, he would say the same. Our whole relationship was a rollercoaster and so sometimes it was good, sometimes it was not so.”

With regard to co-defendant Coulson, also accused of conspiring to hack phones, she admitted periods of “physical intimacy” between 1998 and 2006.

She met husband Charlie Brooks in March 2007.

She said: “My personal life was a bit of a car crash for many years. It’s probably very easy to blame work but the hours were very long and hard, and you got thrown together in an industry like that. It was wrong and it shouldn’t have happened but things did.

“Ross was a good man but the two of us weren’t meant to be, and certainly Andy and I weren’t meant to be. When I met Charlie I was happy for the first time.”

She was also questioned about the inner workings of the NotW during her editorship between 2000 and 2003.

Quizzed about the multi-million-pound budgets given to the tabloid, she said: “The News of the World was very profitable during my editorship but then it was a good time for newspapers back then. I think every year that I was there we had a healthy profit.”

Brooks, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies conspiring to hack phones, to commit misconduct in public office, and to cover up evidence to pervert the course of justice.

She gave details of large payments made by the newspaper for celebrity pictures and exclusive stories. Footballer David Beckham was paid £1 million for excerpts of his autobiography in the Sun and NotW, Brooks said, and she revealed behind-the-scenes deals with celebrities, PR guru Max Clifford and Big Brother contestants such as “Nasty Nick” Bateman.

Asked about the extent to which private investigators were used by the tabloid during her editorship, she said: “It was quite normal to have private detectives working on the paper.”

She said they helped in tracing people who were difficult to find.Brooks said she would not ­expect to be told every time a private investigator was employed but there were specific occasions when their use was raised with her, such as when the newspaper carried out its campaign for Sarah’s Law, to identify paedophiles.

Brooks said the campaign for parents to have access to details of convicted child abusers “defined her editorship”.

The court heard her contract as NotW editor included a clause that she would be responsible for agreeing payments for contributions to the tabloid, and the accuracy and authenticity of information.

Discussing payments to contributors, including one to private detective Glenn Mulcaire’s alias Paul Williams for a story relating to Jamie Bulger’s killers, Brooks said she did not know he was the source for that story, and he was never a topic of conversation between her and former news editor Greg Miskiw.

She said: “I know I didn’t hear the name Glenn Mulcaire until he was arrested.”

Brooks, Coulson, former NotW royal editor Clive Goodman, Brooks’s former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, Brooks’s racehorse trainer husband Charles, head of security at News International Mark Hanna and ex-NotW managing editor Stuart Kuttner deny all charges.

The case was ­adjourned until ­Tuesday.

Sorry Sophie had to grovel after being caught in tabloid sting

The Countess of Wessex wrote grovelling apologies for “indiscreet” comments she made about fellow royals and politicians during a “fake sheikh” sting by the News of the World, the hacking trial heard.

Rebekah Brooks described how the investigation into royal access for business was blown when the letters leaked out.

She said investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood worked on a tip-off via Max Clifford that Sophie’s PR company was selling access to the Royal Family in 2001.

A “disgruntled” former employee had approached the newspaper alleging the countess and a business partner were using the royal connection to boost business. The journalist posed as a phony sheikh in need of PR at a huge cost to the NotW, the court was told.

After the lengthy investigation, Brooks was presented with the results and concluded the allegation was not proved. She decided not to run the story and instead rang Buckingham Palace. A deal was struck for an interview with Sophie in exchange for dumping the fake sheikh story.

She added: “In the meantime, the Countess of Wessex, having been told by us, had realised that during the course of trying to get Maz as a client she had been horribly indiscreet about members of the Royal Family and politicians and obviously remembered what she said.

“So she wrote to everybody involved. She was particularly mean about Tony Blair and Cherie, William Hague, so she wrote these letters.” But the letters leaked out and “became a justification for running the original story” although it was more about the embarrassing remarks, she told the court.

‘Cousin met my mum and said she would carry my baby’

REBEKAH Brooks appeared to lose her composure in the witness box yesterday as she was questioned about her personal life.

The ex-tabloid editor was near to tears when she was quizzed about the possibility of having children with former husband Ross Kemp, who played Grant Mitchell in EastEnders, and asked for a break as the subject was raised.

Brooks told the packed courtroom that she first met Kemp in 1995 and they got engaged “quite quickly” the following year, before splitting in 1997.

But the couple later decided to give romance another try.

“We got back together again around the end of 1998. We started speaking again at my 30th birthday,” she said.

She told the court that in 2001, she started fertility tests.

In April that year, her relationship with Kemp was “very good” and they married in June.

The couple decided to go for surrogacy because of her fertility issues, and her cousin agreed to carry their baby.

Their daughter was born on 25 January, 2012. Speaking about her and her husband’s decision to use a surrogate, she said: “It’s a big thing to do. My mum was out shopping in Warrington one day and she bumped into my cousin, who I was very close with at school.

“My cousin asked mum how we were getting on, how the latest treatment had gone on and mum said ‘They are going to knock it on the head, I think. They knew it was a very, very small chance anyway,’ and she said ‘I’ll do it’. And she did.”

But the marriage came under strain in 2003 with the start of the Iraq war.

In a quiet voice, Brooks told the court: “I think we were both working incredibly long hours … they are completely different industries and the war in Iraq started pretty soon after I became editor and we were doing 4am, 5am editions.

“Me and my senior team at the Sun moved into a hotel next to Wapping to live and Ross was doing incredibly long hours filming, so 2003 was a tough year for us.”

‘I wasn’t told about £92k contract’

Former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks knew nothing about a contract the paper had with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, she told the Old Bailey.

Asked by her lawyer, Jonathan Laidlaw, QC, if she knew anything about the £92,000-a year-contract, she said: “No, not at all.”

She admitted that, as editor, an expense as big as that should have been run past her. The court heard the contract was allegedly organised by former news editor Greg Miskiw, who admits conspiring to hack phones. In court on Thursday, Brooks denied knowing about Mulcaire – who also admitted phone hacking – while NotW editor between 2000 and 2003.

Mr Laidlaw asked: “If someone, say Greg Miskiw, was planning to pay £92,000 a year to someone … should that have been something brought to your attention?”

She replied: “Yes.”

Brooks said that, in 2000 and 2001, her “sign-off level” for payments was about £50,000, and anything bigger would also have to go to then managing editor Stuart Kuttner.

Mr Laidlaw asked: “Was that arrangement Miskiw had with Mulcaire drawn to your attention?”

She said: “No, it wasn’t.”

 
 
 

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