Coulson said he was all too aware of the hypocrisy when he outed David Blunkett’s relationship with married Spectator publisher Kimberly Quinn following a phone hack in 2004 despite the then home secretary’s protestations.
The editors’ own private relationship only came to light during the hacking trial in a letter that Brooks wrote but never sent to Coulson in February 2004, saying she had been waiting for him for six years.
Prosecutors said the letter demonstrated that Brooks and Coulson shared their work confidences and that may have included hacking secrets.
They said it suggested that although Brooks was on holiday in April 2002 when murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked, Coulson, her then deputy who was left in charge, would have kept her in the loop.
But the pair denied it and Brooks maintained that the first she heard about that phone hack was in July 2011.
In the letter, Brooks wrote: “The fact is you are my very best friend. I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you. We laugh and cry together. In fact without our relationship in my life, I am really not sure how I will cope.”
There were contradictory accounts of how long the affair had been going on when Brooks and Coulson were questioned in the witness box. But they agreed it started in 1998 and continued on and off for some years. They also agreed it was wrong.
During that time, Mrs Brooks was married to EastEnders actor Ross Kemp and had tried for a baby, while Coulson had married his partner Eloise and they had three sons. In his evidence, Coulson agreed the relationship was wrong but said the affair began in 1998 and stopped “soon after”, but resumed at the end of 2003 or in early 2004.
In all, the relationship spanned nine years to around the time he resigned as NotW editor and took a job as a spin doctor for the Tories in early 2007, he said.
“In between time, there was a very long period the relationship was what it should have been, which was friendship. From 2004 it was by no means continuous but the affair did continue until around the time I left the News of the World,” he told jurors.
Mrs Brooks told jurors the affair was “wrong and shouldn’t have happened” but denied it had been going on continuously for six years. 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.”