Brooks 'got death threats over dead girl's hacked phone'

Former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks said on Tuesday she had received death threats after it was reported that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's mobile phone had been hacked.

But Brooks, giving evidence for an eighth day in her trial, said she was also sent messages of support, including one from Britain's former prime minister Tony Blair.

Brooks, 45, denies four charges including conspiracy to hack phones.

She told the Old Bailey central criminal court in London that she had felt "sick" when The Guardian newspaper published the allegations in July 2011 -- which led owner Rupert Murdoch to shut down the News of the World tabloid within days.

Brooks, who was by that time chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper unit News International, told jurors that she and her colleagues were horrified by the allegations and desperately tried to find out if they were true.

She said that as the story made headlines around the world, "we were completely at a loss and all over the place really, trying to find out what was true and what wasn't".

Referring to the abusive messages she was sent, Brooks told jurors: "The allegations were, I think, met with universal revulsion and I was the central figure of that."

But among the pledges of support was a text message from Blair to Brooks on July 5, 2011, which read: "Let me know if there's anything I can help you with.

"Thinking of you. I've been through things like this."

Brooks replied: "Hopefully in this climate the truth will out."

The Guardian reported in July 2011 that police were investigating claims that the teenager's mobile had been hacked after she went missing in March 2002, something that has not been disputed.

- 'False hope sparked fury' -

The Guardian also initially claimed that voicemail messages had been deleted by the News of the World, giving Milly's parents "false hope" she was still alive. This claim was later shown to be untrue.

Brooks said it was believed that whoever had hacked Milly's phone was not a staff member at the tabloid.

"Obviously the accusation of Milly Dowler's phone in itself was terrible, but it was the deletion of the messages, the false hope, that was rightly sparking fury," she said.

The court heard she was also sent a text message of support by former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, telling her: "Grit your teeth and stay strong."

Brooks said she told Morgan it "must have been (Glenn) Mulcaire", referring to the private investigator paid by the News of the World who was jailed for hacking in 2007.

In other evidence, Brooks said she "just lost it" when her husband Charlie told her he might be arrested because his "rather large porn collection" had been found by police behind some bins in the car park of their luxury apartment complex.

The prosecution says Charlie Brooks hid his belongings, including the pornography, so they would not be found by police officers who searched the couple's home.

Charlie Brooks and five other defendants in the trial also deny all the charges.