11/05/2013 07:28 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Murdoch Journalists Had Voicemail Recordings From Milly Dowler, Court Told


LONDON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - A senior executive from Rupert Murdoch's News of the World told British police hunting for a missing schoolgirl in 2002 that journalists on his paper had recordings of voicemail messages taken from her phone, London's phone-hacking trial was told on Tuesday.

Stuart Kuttner, then managing editor of the tabloid, sent an email to Surrey Police investigating the disappearance of Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered, saying they had details of her voicemails and then ran a story quoting them, the prosecution said.

Kuttner is on trial accused of conspiracy to illegally access voicemails on mobile phones alongside former editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, who both have close links to Prime Minister David Cameron. They deny the charges.

The Old Bailey court has been told that Glenn Mulcaire, a private eye who worked for the now defunct News of the World, had admitted hacking Dowler's phone.

The jury has also been told three journalists from the paper have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hack phones.

News of the Dowler hacking in the summer of 2011 caused a "media firestorm" to engulf News International, the British newspaper arm of Murdoch's News Corp, and led to the closure of the 168-year-old paper, the court has heard.

On Tuesday, the prosecution gave a timeline of events surrounding the hacking of Dowler's phone after the 13-year-old went missing on her way back from school in March 2002.

The court heard that on April 13, Kuttner contacted Surrey Police to say the News of the World had possession of recordings of her voicemail messages. When a detective questioned him about details, Kuttner said the paper had got Dowler's phone details from school friends.

Later that day, the paper, which was being edited by the then deputy editor Coulson while Brooks was on holiday in Dubai, ran an article which directly quoted from one of the messages.

However the second edition of the paper featured a story without details of hacked message which the prosecution argue followed contact between Brooks and Coulson.

Jonathan Laidlaw, Brooks's lawyer, pointed out that there was no direct telephone contact between her and the newspaper on April 13 between the two editions of the paper.

Under cross-examination, Det Sgt Greg Smith said police could also not be certain when exactly Brooks was using her phone because it was not clear if records showed British or Dubai time.

Brooks and Coulson also deny charges of authorising illegal payments to public officials, and Brooks and her husband Charlie are also accused of perverting the course of justice by hindering the police investigation.

Four other former News International figures also deny charges and the trial is expected to last six months.



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