Phone hack trial hears teen's voicemail messages

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. Photo / AP
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. Photo / AP

Britain's phone-hacking trial has heard evidence about how the News of the World listened to voicemail messages left for missing British schoolgirl Milly Dowler, the case which brought down the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper.

Prosecutors said a 2002 story about the 13-year-old, who was later found murdered, was changed between the first and second editions of the newspaper to remove references to a message on her voicemail.

Then editor Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch's protegee who went on to run his British newspaper wing, was on holiday but was in contact with her deputy Andy Coulson between the editions, the court heard on Tuesday.

Brooks and Coulson both deny charges of phone hacking at the News of the World, which Murdoch shut down in July 2011 after public revulsion at revelations that the schoolgirl's phone had been targeted.

On Monday, Coulson's lawyer urged jurors to "keep an open mind" and confirmed the 45-year-old would be giving evidence later in the trial, which is expected to last six months.

"It's his case that he was never party to any agreement to hack phones, whatever others might have been doing on his watch," defence lawyer Timothy Langdale told the Old Bailey court.

Langdale also revealed that Coulson had his own phone hacked by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and suggested this would have been unlikely if he had known about the practice.

Coulson was deputy editor of the News of the World under Brooks and replaced her in 2003 when she moved to edit the tabloid's daily sister paper, The Sun.

Last week the trial heard that the pair had a six-year affair until 2004.

Coulson resigned when former royal editor Clive Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed for hacking in 2007, although he always insisted he was ignorant of their activities.

He went on to become communications chief for Prime Minister David Cameron, although he quit in early 2011 amid increasing questions about his own role in the scandal.

Brooks and her husband Charlie deny charges of perverting the course of justice.

Brooks is also accused of directing her personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, to remove seven boxes of notebooks from the company's archive. She and Carter deny the charges.

- AFP

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