Police searched cornflakes, Brooks tells trial

Charlie Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey for the phone-hacking trial yesterday. Picture: Alex Huckle/GC Images
Charlie Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey for the phone-hacking trial yesterday. Picture: Alex Huckle/GC Images
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THE husband of Rebekah Brooks told the hacking trial yesterday that he felt “ashamed” and “mortified” over his bungled bid to hide property from an intensive police search.

Giving evidence at the Old Bailey, Charlie Brooks said he had done something “very stupid” and that items stashed in an underground car park at the couple’s London flat were his.

The court has heard that property including laptops and lesbian porn DVDs were hidden on 17 July 2011, the day police interviewed Mrs Brooks and carried out searches.

Brooks, 51, denies conspiring with his wife and News International head of security Mark Hanna to pervert the course of justice by concealing potential evidence.

Under cross-examination, the racehorse trainer said: “I accept the fact I have brought it on myself. I’m not whingeing about it.

“I feel ashamed at what I have done to Mark Hanna, who is a good, innocent man.

“I’m mortified about the way I have embarrassed my wife. I’m furious with myself for being so stupid.”

There was laughter in Court 12 when prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said Brooks was a “man of the world” and he replied: “Thank you very much. I have been around.”

But Brooks said the police search had been “quite traumatic”, adding: “My way of shutting it out was to watch a fairly pointless golf tournament.”

He said he was also “under the influence” of alcohol but not “helplessly drunk” that day.

Of his wife’s late night return home, he said: “I cannot remember that much about it.

“I do remember telling her they had been through the cornflakes because I thought that was a weird thing to do.”

Brooks was also questioned about his novel, Switch, which he has said he wanted to keep out of the hands of police.

He told the court he had been worried that publisher HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp – owners of News International – would “dump” him at the height of the hacking crisis because of his wife’s connection.

On company support for his wife, Brooks said: “Rupert Murdoch did not want my wife to resign but it’s not News Corp in its entirety.”

Mrs Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies conspiring to hack phones and commit misconduct in public office.

All seven defendants deny the charges against them.

Mr Edis asked Brooks if he had been aware of the risk he was taking by acting “covertly”.

Brooks said: “I have genuinely conceded that I appreciate what I did was stupid.”

He went on: “I acted very foolishly on that day and, obviously, sitting here today, I deeply regret that.”

As he concluded his cross-examination, Mr Edis suggested his actions had been to protect his wife. Brooks replied: “That’s simply not true.”

Mark Hanna, 50, of Buckingham, Buckinghamshire followed Charlie Brooks into the witness box.

He told the court he would start work at 5:15am and finish between 4pm-5pm seven days a week, often taking work home with him.

His duties included sweeping offices for bugs, providing security for executives and attending community police briefings, the court heard.

There were 50-60 security sub-contractors working across two London sites, he said.

Hanna said he had carried out security surveys of the Brooks’s flat in Chelsea Harbour and their barn in Oxfordshire.

In April 2011, Hanna said he became aware of a fear that Rebekah Brooks might be arrested, he said.

Mrs Brooks also started receiving “e-mails that were not of a very nice nature” prompting increased security, he said.

Asked by his lawyer, William Clegg QC, if they were abusive or threatening, Hanna said: “Both.”

After it emerged on 4 July 2011 that murder victim Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked, Hanna said security concerns “heightened quite considerably” and Mrs Brooks had been personally targeted.

The trial continues.