Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s U.K. unit, was frequently in touch with work while on holiday during the Milly Dowler disappearance and told friends she liked “to keep on top of things,” a witness said.
Dean Keyworth socialized with Brooks and her then husband, Ross Kemp, when they were on a Dubai holiday in 2002 during the time the murdered schoolgirl had gone missing, he told the court during the second week of the U.K. phone-hacking trial.
The discovery in 2011 that Dowler’s phone had been hacked by the News of the World triggered public outrage that led News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch to close the tabloid. Brooks, who was then editor of the weekly newspaper, is one of eight people on trial for a variety of charges stemming from wrongdoing at the company’s U.K. newspapers.
“Rebekah was on the phone quite a lot back to the office so there wasn’t that much conversation,” said Keyworth, who was also a friend of Andy Coulson, another defendant in the case.
The tabloid published a story on April 14, 2002, saying Dowler’s phone had been targeted by a prank caller, with the text of a voice-mail message from a recruitment agency seemingly offering Dowler a job. Later editions excluded the quote, Mark Bryant-Heron, a prosecution lawyer, told jurors in London yesterday.
The recruitment agency accidentally left a phone message on Dowler’s phone, the director of the company said in a written statement read out in court. As a result, the company received phone calls from reporters and people claiming to be Dowler’s mother.
The director of the company also said she received a visit from a News of the World reporter claiming to be helping Surrey police with the inquiry into the missing schoolgirl.
Keyworth said Coulson, another former editor of the tabloid and a one-time media adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, was an ambitious journalist.
“He is very ambitious but I don’t think he is ruthless,” he said. He “wanted to get the story but not at any cost.”
Coulson and Brooks had a six-year affair that ended in 2004, prosecutors said last week.
Brooks and Coulson are both charged with hacking and bribery offenses. Stuart Kuttner, the 73-year-old former managing editor of the tabloid and Ian Edmondson, a 44-year-old former news editor, are charged with hacking. One-time royal reporter Clive Goodman is on trial for conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
Brooks is also charged with hiding evidence along with her husband, Charlie, her former assistant Cheryl Carter, and News U.K.’s former head of security, Mark Hanna. All eight have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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