By Michael Holden
LONDON, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The trial of Rebekah Brooks, who ran Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper arm, was shown film footage on Tuesday of her husband involved in what prosecutors say was a botched plan to hide evidence from police investigating allegations of phone-hacking.
The day Brooks was first quizzed by police and before her home was searched, her husband, racehorse trainer Charlie, hid a laptop and a bag behind a bin in an underground car park of their plush London apartment block where it was picked up by the Brooks’s security team, prosecutors say.
After the police completed a search, the security team returned with a bag and left it in the car park. Prosecutors say the plan went awry for the Brooks because a cleaner then found the material and it was given to the police.
The alleged intrigue took place in 2011 when News International, the British newspaper division of Murdoch’s News Corp, became engulfed in a media firestorm and a police inquiry after it was alleged journalists had hacked the phone of a murdered schoolgirl amongst others.
Both Charlie and Rebekah Brooks deny conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by hiding material from detectives. Brooks also denies conspiracy to hack phones and authorising illegal payments to public officials.
Closed circuit television (CCTV) footage shown to the jury at London’s Old Bailey court showed Charlie Brooks emerging from a doorway clutching a bag and a laptop on the morning of July 17, 2011, at about the same time his wife was heading to a police station where she would be arrested.
After looking around, he disappeared from view and less than a minute later, the CCTV film showed him returning empty-handed.
On Tuesday, the jury saw Mark Hanna, the ex-head of security at News International, arriving at the car park about two hours later and phone records indicated he had been in regular contact with Charlie Brooks, the court heard.
He disappeared out of camera shot, to the same area where Brooks had been earlier, returning with a brown bag and other material, before driving away. Hanna also denies a charge of perverting the course of justice.
At about 3 p.m., seven detectives arrived and after a search of the apartment lasting some two hours, they left holding sealed bags with computers and other possessions.
Brooks then contacted Hanna, and at shortly after 9.30 p.m, following a flurry of calls between the security team, one arrived at the car park. He gave a friend of Brooks’s two pizza boxes, removed a large black bag from the car and also vanished from view to the bin area before returning empty-handed.
“Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Pizza delivered and the chicken is in the pot,” the security contractor wrote in a text message to a colleague, prosecutor Mark Bryant-Heron told the court. The Broadsword phrase was a reference to the film “Where Eagles Dare”, which starred Richard Burton as a British spy.
“Ha! Fuckin amateurs!” the colleague replies, in an apparent reference to those who came up with the alleged plan.
The following day, while the Brooks go to their lawyer’s office, a cleaner discovered the black bag, the court heard. On their return, a baffled-looking Charlie Brooks and members of their security team were seen searching in vain for the bag.
The court heard an employee at the apartment block contacted police and handed over a brown briefcase and a black laptop to officers.
The trial of Hanna, Rebekah and Charlie Brooks, and that of four others, is expected to last until April.