LONDON – In a reversal of fortune fit for one of their own front pages, two British former tabloid editors have witnessed the dissection of their private and professional lives in the full glare of the media at a trial in London’s most famous criminal court. Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, once Rupert Murdoch’s most influential British newspaper chiefs, deny conspiracy to hack the telephone messages of princes, politicians and the public in a highly competitive quest for exclusive stories.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis has argued the two editors conspired in the phone hacking that ultimately forced Murdoch to close England’s best-selling newspaper, prompted the state to impose media regulation, and exposed the cosy ties between the Press and Britain’s ruling elite.
Revealing that Brooks and Coulson, both 45, had a secret six-year affair, Edis said their intimacy, position and control of the purse strings meant they knew phones were being hacked, including that of a missing schoolgirl later found murdered.
”What Mr Coulson knew, Mrs Brooks knew too. What Mrs Brooks knew, Mr Coulson knew too,” Edis, in wig, white collar, and black gown, told Court No. 12 of the Old Bailey. ”It isn’t simply that there was an affair, it isn’t to do with whether they have sexual relations with one another, [it is to do with] how close were they. And they were very close.”
Sitting side by side behind glass in the dock, Brooks, a friend
of Prime Minister David Cameron, and Coulson, who later worked
for Cameron as his chief spokesman, remained stony-faced in the hushed court when Edis revealed their liaison. Newspapers splashed the affair across their front pages, stoking interest in a trial that is enthralling Britain.
The Affair They Didn’t Expose, said The Independent on its front page, while Murdoch’s The Times went with Editors And Lovers – Couple At Heart Of Hacking Trial.
The affair began in 1998 and continued for at least six years, during which time Brooks – whose maiden name was Wade – married her first husband, TV soap actor Ross Kemp, in 2002. After divorcing Kemp in 2009, she married her current husband Charlie Brooks later that year. Coulson married in 2000.
The trial could last six months due to the complexity of the case. Public outcry at revelations that the News Of The World had hacked the phone of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, who was 13, forced Murdoch to close the paper in July 2011.
When called before British lawmakers that month, Murdoch said he was humbled by the scandal and had been betrayed by people he had trusted at the paper. He said he had not been aware of the extent of hacking at the paper. He later told a media inquiry in 2012 it was a serious blot on his reputation. (Reuters)