LONDON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - The former head of security at Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper arm told a colleague on the day the News of the World tabloid was closed down over a phone-hacking scandal he had dug a hole and “burnt stuff”, a London court heard on Monday.
Murdoch shut the News of the World in July 2011 at the height of public outrage that journalists on the paper had hacked voicemail messages of mobile phones, including that of a murdered schoolgirl.
Seven people including Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, Murdoch’s British newspaper arm, are on trial for a variety of offences stemming from police investigations into phone-hacking.
The Old Bailey heard that after the final edition of the News of the World had gone to press and the staff had left on July 9, Mark Hanna, then head of security at News International went for drink with one of his security team, Robert Hernandez.
Hernandez told the court they spent about two hours in a pub near the offices, with Hanna drinking a bottle of wine by himself.
During their time in the pub, Hanna talked about how he had provided protection for Brooks, whom he described as kind and a good boss, before going on to discuss the closure of the News of the World for another 10 to 15 minutes.
“He mentioned one time he dug a hole in his garden and burnt stuff,” Hernandez said. “I asked him if it was papers. He didn’t reply.”
Hanna is accused with Rebekah Brooks of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by concealing material from police, charges they deny.
Under questioning from Hanna’s lawyer William Clegg, Hernandez agreed they had talked about lots of different subjects.
“It was a fire in his garden, we know not when and we know not what,” Clegg put to him.
“That’s correct,” Hernandez replied. “For all I know he could have been burning bank statements.”
Another witness Glen Jagger, the security operations manager for News International, said bosses had received “quite a bit” of hate mail at the time, and there had been actual threats made to executives including Brooks.
Some of this hate mail was discovered at Hanna’s home where he had taken it to asses what risk if any the authors posed, the court was told.
Clegg read out some excerpts from the “disgusting” hate mail which included phrases such as “rotting in hell would be too good a punishment”, while another said “the universal law of karma will exact its revenge”. (Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)