* Rebekah Brooks hindered police, court told
* Brooks’s husband “involved in elaborate spy movie plan”
* Her notebooks were taken from archives and later vanished
By Michael Holden
LONDON, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Rebekah Brooks, the former boss of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper arm, and her husband were involved in an elaborate but botched plan to hide computers and documents from police investigating phone-hacking, a London court heard on Monday.
Brooks, a former editor of Murdoch’s News of the World and Sun newspapers, also arranged with her personal assistant for seven boxes full of her archived notebooks to be spirited away before detectives could get hold of them, prosecutor Andrew Edis told England’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey.
Brooks was arrested in July 2011 and later charged with conspiracy to illegally intercept voicemails on mobile phones, authorising illegal payments to public officials, and perverting the course of justice by hampering the police inquiry. She denies the charges.
Her personal assistant Cheryl Carter, her racehorse trainer husband Charlie, and Mark Hanna, ex-head of security at News International, also deny charges of perverting the course of justice.
In July 2011, News International, the British arm of News Corp, became engulfed in a “media firestorm” after news that journalists had hacked the phone of a murdered schoolgirl, Edis said.
The furore led to the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World and Brooks’s resignation from the company.
The court was told that Hanna had organised an operation named “Blackhawk” to protect Brooks and her husband, both good friends of Prime Minister David Cameron, that led to attempts to hide material from detectives.
On July 17, the day Rebekah Brooks was first arrested but before police could begin searches, Edis said her husband had been recorded on closed circuit TV hiding a bag and a laptop beside bins in the underground car park of their flat in London.
These were collected by Hanna shortly afterwards and taken away. After numerous contacts during the day, it was arranged for the computer and other material to be returned, Edis said, and later one of Hanna’s team - pretending he was delivering pizzas - put them back behind the bins in a black plastic bag.
“Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Pizza delivered and the chicken is in the pot,” the security contractor wrote in a text message to a colleague.
Edis explained that the Broadsword phrase was a reference to the film “Where Eagles Dare”, which starred Richard Burton as a British spy.
But the plan went awry. The following morning, before it could be retrieved, the black bag was discovered by a cleaner, who gave it to his manager. The manager later called the police.
“This whole exercise was quite complicated and quite risky and liable to go wrong, as it did,” Edis told the jury. “The only plausible explanation was it was designed to hide material so the police wouldn’t get it.”
He said it turned out there had been nothing incriminating on the computer, but that did not mean the activities were not designed to hinder the police.
The court also heard that seven boxes of notebooks belonging to Rebekah Brooks were removed from News International archives by her assistant, Carter, after the hacking of schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone was revealed.
“You can imagine the extremely anxious if not panic-stricken approach to these developments that must have been going on,” Edis said. The boxes were taken to Carter’s home and not seen again, he added.
The trial heard last week that three senior former journalists from the News of the World had admitted conspiracy to tap the phones of politicians, celebrities and others. Among those whose calls were hacked were Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, Prince Harry.
The trial, which is due to last six months, continues.