Ian Edmondson told the Leveson Inquiry that former editor Colin Myler told him to have a “woolly” conversation with Clarence Mitchell about plans to publish Mrs McCann’s diary so he would not know what the newspaper was planning to do.
Mrs McCann has told the inquiry she felt “violated” and like “climbing into a hole and not coming out” when the intensely private journal appeared in the now-defunct paper on September 14, 2008.
Mr Myler has said he would never have published the diary — which was obtained from a female Portuguese journalist — if he had realised she was not aware of what the paper was planning to do.
He said Mr Edmondson told him he had cleared the story with Clarence Mitchell.
The News of the World’s ex-legal manager Tom Crone has also told the inquiry he understood a representative of the McCanns gave the News of the World permission to publish the diary.
But the inquiry has heard that a transcript of a phone call between Mr Edmondson and Mr Mitchell about the story the paper was planning was “most clearly ambiguous”, and Mitchell has denied Mr Edmondson ever told him what the paper was really planning.
Mr Edmondson yesterday said he had not made it clear, on the express instructions of Mr Myler.
He said he had attended a meeting with Mr Myler and Mr Crone where they discussed the story.
“Tom gave his legal view which I am told I am not allowed to repeat but which dismayed, shall I say, Mr Myler,” he said.
“So he decided to ask me to make a call to Mr Mitchell, not make it clear what we had, telling him in general terms, basically make it woolly.
“I think someone previously used the word ambiguous, that is absolutely spot on what he wanted.
“He was frightened that if Clarence knew what we had, he might take action.”
Mr Edmondson, who was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemail messages last year and is on bail, is bringing an unfair dismissal claim against News International.
Speaking after Mr Edmondson’s evidence, Mr Mitchell said: “Given today’s evidence, I feel entirely vindicated.
“I have always said the News of the World actively sought to deceive me over the publication of Kate’s diary.
“But to hear that it was apparently done at the editor’s direct behest was particularly shocking, if not surprising. Clearly, Mr Myler now has some serious questions to answer.”
Lord Justice Leveson asked Mr Edmondson again: “Did you lead Mr Myler to believe that you had made it clear to Mr Mitchell that you had the whole diary and were going to cause extracts from it to be published in the News of the World?’
Mr Edmondson replied: “No.”
He said he presented an “alternative” to Mr Myler so the newspaper could work together with the McCanns to publish the diary, but the collaborative option had been rejected by the editor.