FORMER News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks has claimed she was kept in the dark during a period in which the newspaper believed Milly Dowler was alive and working in a factory.
If the 13-year-old schoolgirl had been found alive, the Sunday paper would have cleared the existing front page on EastEnders to make way for the story, the Old Bailey heard.
The jury has already been told that Milly’s phone was hacked by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in April 2002 and that he had discovered a voice message, left by mistake, by a recruitment agency in Telford.
But Brooks said she was not told of the potential development in the case while she was on holiday in Dubai, leaving her deputy Andy Coulson in charge.
On her 12th day in the witness box, she was questioned by prosecutor Andrew Edis QC about her contact with co-defendant Coulson while she was away.
Pressed over whether she would expect to be told of such a development, Brooks replied: “I think if it had been believed at Wapping that they were sure beyond all reasonable doubt they had found Milly Dowler working in a factory, that they would have told me, I’m sure. The fact is nobody told me.”
Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies any knowledge of Milly’s voicemail messages being hacked by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. She and Coulson, 46, deny conspiracy to hack phones and all other charges against them. The court heard no-one passed on the information about Milly possibly being alive to police until the following Saturday. Mr Edis asked Brooks: “Nobody tells the police about the voicemail until the Saturday afternoon. Would you regard that as a big decision?”
She replied: “If anyone had thought they had genuinely found Milly Dowler alive, I would.” He went on: “There would be nothing to stop them – phone hacking was not illegal, as far as you knew?”
Brooks responded: “At the time I did not know it was illegal, but it was obviously a serious breach of the code [of conduct] even if it had been illegal. If, before Milly Dowler’s phone was accessed, someone had put a set of circumstances to me and said hypothetically it was in the public interest, I might have said yes.
“But if anybody had told me Milly Dowler was alive my instinct would have been to tell police immediately for the sake of the parents and not delay for a second.” The trial was adjourned until today, when Mr Edis will continue his cross-examination of Brooks.