News of the World chiefs 'had six year secret affair'

Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks had a six year affair, the Old Bailey has heard. Photo: Press Association

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson must have both known about the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone, as the pair were involved in a secret affair at the time, a court has heard.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told jurors at the Old Bailey the pair had a relationship which began in 1998 and lasted at least six years. He added he was not revealing details of the affair to make a moral judgement but to show the level of trust between them.

According to the prosecution, Brooks and Coulson would have known the mobile phone of the Milly Dowler was being hacked to provide stories for the News of the World.

Andrew Edis QC said in 2002 with the police still searching for Milly and her parents still experiencing the "agony of hope" private investigator Glen Mulcaire managed to intercept messages sent to the schoolgirl's phone.

The prosecution say Brooks, Coulson and others in the News of the World hierarchy must have known Mulcaire was on a £100,000 a year retainer to provide them with information obtained from hacking.

ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies reports:

The court heard Brooks and Coulson had been having an affair spanning the period covered by their phone-hacking conspiracy charge.

Brooks, who was editor of the News of the World when Coulson was her deputy, wrote in a letter in 2004:

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 not sure I will cope.

Brooks remained with her head bowed and Coulson looked ahead towards the prosecutor as the affair was revealed to the jury.

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 October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.

Rebekah and Charlie Brooks leave the Old Bailey tonight. Credit: REUTERS/Toby Melville

The jury has already been told that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire 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 the schoolgirl'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.

Andy Coulson leaves the Old Bailey this evening. Credit: REUTERS/Toby Melville

Jurors were also told that Coulson confronted former home secretary David Blunkett over his affair with married Kimberly Quinn, which the newspaper had discovered through hacking her voicemails.

In a conversation recorded by Mr Blunkett, Coulson told him of plans to run the story in the NotW and said that it had come from "extremely reliable sources".

Coulson said: "It is based on extremely reliable sources", and added: "I am not able to lay out clear-cut evidence but I believe it to be true."

As well as the phone hacking charge, ex-NotW and Sun editor Brooks is also accused of two counts of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office - one between January 1 2004 and January 31 2012 and the other between February 9 2006 and October 16 2008 - linked to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials.

Former news editor of the News of the World Ian Edmondson. Credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Coulson is also facing two allegations that he conspired with former royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, from Addlestone in Surrey, and other unknown people to commit misconduct in public office - between August 31 2002 and January 31 2003, and between January 31 and June 3 2005.

It is claimed that Goodman paid palace policemen for copies of royal phone directories - allegedly authorised by Coulson - to get information on members of the Royal Family.

Brooks also faces two allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - one with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, 49, from Chelmsford in Essex, between July 6 and 9 2011; and a second with her husband, Charles Brooks, and former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna, and others between July 15 and July 19 2011.

All deny the charges. The trial continues tomorrow.