UK PM's former media aide tells court he heard hacked messages

LONDON, April 16 Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:21am EDT

LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - Andy Coulson, the former media chief to British Prime Minister David Cameron, said on Wednesday he had been played a recording of hacked voicemail messages left by the country's then interior minister as far back as 2004.

Coulson, who was editing Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World tabloid at the time, is on trial for conspiring to hack into voicemail messages and paying public officials, in a case that has shaken the British media and political establishment.

Coulson has denied all the charges but he told the Old Bailey on Wednesday one of his senior reporters had played him excerpts of voicemail messages left by David Blunkett on the mobile phone of a woman with whom he was having a relationship.

"This was the first and only time voicemail messages were played to me," Coulson said, appearing in the witness box for the third day.

The reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, has already pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally tap into voicemail messages. (Reporting by Michael Holden; writing by Kate Holton; editing by Stephen Addison)

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