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UK editor accused of hacking said 'do his phone', court hears

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson emailed a senior journalist at the disgraced tabloid ordering him to "do" a celebrity's phone, the trial over Britain's phone hacking scandal heard Friday.

Coulson, who later became Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief, denies conspiring to illegally access celebrities' voicemail messages in a scandal that forced tycoon Rupert Murdoch to shut the paper in 2011.

The trial heard Thursday that Coulson had been having an affair with fellow defendant Rebekah Brooks, his predecessor as editor and a close Murdoch confidante, for much of the time the pair are accused of involvement in hacking.

Brooks and Coulson, both 45, are among eight defendants denying charges in the high-profile trial at London's Old Bailey court.

On day three of his opening statement, prosecutor Andrew Edis said Coulson, as editor between 2003 and 2007, must have known his journalists were routinely hacking phones to glean stories for a tabloid that prided itself on its celebrity scoops.

"Does he know about phone hacking? He says he doesn't. We say: 'Oh yes, he did'," Edis told the jury.

The court heard that in May 2006 the paper was planning a story about television personality Calum Best, the son of late Manchester United football star George Best.

Coulson had emailed Ian Edmondson, the tabloid's former head of news who is also on trial, and instructed him: "Do his phone," the prosecutor said.

Edis told the jury of nine women and three men that they would have to decide what that meant.

Prince Harry 'targeted'

Prince Harry, the youngest son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, was the target of a successful hacking operation by the paper in 2005, the prosecutor said.

Edis read a transcript of a voicemail message the prince left to an aide asking for help with an essay he was writing at Sandhurst military academy, in breach of the academy's rules.

The paper subsequently ran a story about Harry, now 29 and a helicopter gunner with the British army, "based entirely" on the voicemail message, the jury was told.

On occasions, the prosecutor went on, the tabloid hit the wrong targets -- such as when it hacked the phone of a hairdresser named Laura Rooney, falsely believing she was related to the England football star Wayne Rooney.

Coulson is also accused along with former royal editor Clive Goodman of paying a policeman for a palace phone directory containing senior royals' contact details.

Edis showed the court an email exchange which he said provided the "clearest possible evidence" of this crime.

Goodman emailed Coulson saying the policeman was selling the "extremely useful" directory for £1,000 ($1,600, 1,200 euros), Edis said. A payment for £1,000 was subsequently authorised.

Prosecutors revealed Coulson's 1998-2004 affair with Brooks on the grounds that it showed they "trusted each other" and would have shared details about hacking at the paper.

In a letter found on Brooks' computer, dated 2004, she wrote to him: "I tell you everything, I confide in you."

Pictures of Brooks and Coulson were splashed across Britain's newspapers on Friday, turning the tables on a pair whose paper was renowned for exposing celebrity infidelities.

Coulson married in 2000, while Brooks wed her first husband, actor Ross Kemp, in 2002. Her current husband Charlie Brooks, whom she married in 2009, is on trial alongside her accused of helping her conceal evidence about hacking.

Murdoch shut down the News of the World in July 2011 amid a huge outcry over revelations that it illegally accessed the voicemail messages of a murdered schoolgirl as well as hundreds of celebrities.

Three senior journalists at the paper -- Greg Miskiw, James Weatherup and Neville Thurlbeck -- pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hack phones ahead of the current trial.

Prosecutors argue that Brooks, Coulson and the tabloid's managing editor Stuart Kuttner must have known about hacking because they were keeping a close eye on its budget, and obtaining hacked information was expensive.

Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who has previously been jailed for hacking, was paid £100,000 (116,000 euros, $160,000) a year to work with an investigations team that routinely used hacking, prosecutors say.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131101/uk-editor-accused-hacking-said-do-his-phone-court-hears-0