‘Brooks said it was easy to hack phones’, court told

Rebekah Brooks, former head of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper group, told Eimear Cook, the ex-wife of golfer Colin Montgomerie, that it was “easy” to listen to other people’s voicemails, Cook told a London court.

Brooks, who is on trial alongside seven other defendants, has pleaded not guilty to charges related to phone hacking at the News of the World when she was editor, illegal payments to officials for stories, and impeding police inquiries.

The prosecution told the jury earlier in the trial that the comments made by Brooks to Cook over lunch in 2005 showed the editor had known that phone hacking was going on under her watch. Brooks denies this.

Brooks’s lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw accused Cook of making the conversation up as well as other details about the lunch. Cook denies this.

Cook was asked about an occasion in Sept 2005 when she and Brooks had lunch along with two of Cook’s friends.

“The bit I remember the most is the topic of how easy it is to listen to other people’s voicemails as long as they haven’t changed their factory-setting pin codes,” Cook told the court. Asked who had said that, she said: “Rebekah”.

“She said she couldn’t believe that famous people who have all those advisers didn’t know you have to personalise your pin codes to make their voicemail secure,” Cook said, when asked to elaborate.

She also said Brooks had recounted “in parenthesis” a story about Beatle Paul McCartney and his then-fiancée Heather Mills having a row in a hotel that had resulted in an engagement ring being thrown out the window.

“I was under the impression she was talking about Paul McCartney’s phone that hadn’t had its pin code changed,” Cook said. Asked to describe Brooks’s attitude while discussing these matters, she said: “Quite flippant”.

Laidlaw accused Cook of telling lies to the jury.

Cook had told the court earlier that Brooks had talked during the lunch about a row between herself and her then-husband, actor Ross Kemp, that had been reported in her own newspaper, The Sun. Cook said Brooks had laughed about this.

Laidlaw put it to her that an alleged assault by Brooks on Kemp that was reported in the newspapers did not take place until several weeks after the lunch, so her account of what Brooks had said could not possibly be true.

Cook stuck by her story. “I did not make it up. I have no grievance against Mrs Brooks whatsoever.”

The trial continues.


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