By Michael Holden
LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - A senior executive of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp said the company would not allow the media mogul’s close lieutenant Rebekah Brooks to be dragged into a phone-hacking scandal, the jury at her trial was told on Thursday.
Brooks, former editor of the News of the World tabloid and chief executive from 2009 at Murdoch’s British newspaper arm News International, is accused of conspiring to illegally intercept voicemails on mobile phones.
In March 2011, as the scandal mounted, Brooks sent her husband Charlie a story about phone-hacking allegations being made by a member of parliament, Chris Bryant. Charlie Brooks, who is also on trial, emailed Will Lewis, a senior News International executive, to ask if his wife was all right.
“Charlie, she’s OK,” Lewis replied in a email recovered from a computer at her home and shown to the jury.
He went on: “Bryant is clearly making stuff up. There was a concerted effort by him and some other MPs and (the BBC‘s) Panorama to push the start of the saga back before 2005 in order to target Rebekah. We will not let this happen.”
Charlie Brooks sent a similar email to Lewis in July 2011 after it emerged that News of the World journalists had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002, when Brooks was the paper’s editor.
“Another attempted hit on Rebekah by (MP Tom) Watson,” Lewis said. “Far from ideal and Dowler family quotes are bad. We are on the back foot as are blind on Mulcaire documents.”
The trial has heard private investigator Glenn Mulcaire has pleaded guilty to hacking Dowler’s phone, while three other senior News of the World journalists have admitted conspiracy to hack phones.
Brooks resigned from News International later in July 2011, shortly after Murdoch shut down the News of the World in the wake of mounting public disgust at the hacking revelations.
Earlier the trial heard that the paper’s former royal editor Clive Goodman had warned that senior figures on the paper would end up in jail if payments to police officers were discovered.
Brooks is on trial with her husband, Andy Coulson - another former Murdoch editor who later served as Prime Minister David Cameron’s media chief - and five others on various charges related to phone hacking, making illegal payments for stories and hampering police investigations. They all deny the charges.