Phone-hacking trial: Brooks 'received death threats'

Rebekah Brooks arriving at the Old Bailey on March 4 Rebekah Brooks said she had been 'shocked' by media reports Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked

Rebekah Brooks has revealed she received death threats after it was reported that murdered Milly Dowler's mobile phone had been hacked.

The former News of the World editor also received a message of support from Tony Blair, the Old Bailey heard.

Mrs Brooks told the court she had felt "sick" when the Guardian published the story in July 2011.

The 45-year-old denies four charges including conspiracy to hack phones and to commit misconduct in public office.

The Guardian reported on 4 July 2011 that police were investigating claims that the teenager's mobile had been hacked after she went missing in March 2002.

This jury has heard this is true and it is not disputed by any side in the trial.

Mrs Brooks was at a fertility clinic when a colleague alerted her to the story, the court was told.

'Universal revulsion'

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 was later shown to be untrue.

Start Quote

We were completely at a loss and all over the place really, trying to find out what was true and what wasn't”

End Quote Rebekah Brooks Former News of the World editor

Mrs Brooks, chief executive of News International at that time, described the claim as being "pretty horrific".

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

In a message to a friend, Mrs Brooks had said she felt like there was a "witch hunt" against her.

The court heard former prime minister Mr Blair sent an email on 5 July 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: "Thank you, I know what's it's like. GB (Gordon Brown) pals getting their own back.

"Rupert and James (Murdoch) have been brilliant.

"Hopefully even in this climate the truth will out."

'Astonished'

Who are the defendants?

Hacking trial defendants

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

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

She told the court she and her colleagues had been horrified by the Guardian allegations, adding: "We were completely at a loss and all over the place really, trying to find out what was true and what wasn't."

Being questioned by her lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw QC, she told the jury: "The accessing of Milly Dowler's phone in itself is terrible but it was the deletion of the messages and the 'false hope' that were quite rightly sparking fury."

The day after reading the Guardian story, she wrote a letter to the Chief Constable of Surrey Police in which she said: "I was astonished and shocked by these allegations which I had not previously heard."

Mrs Brooks and her senior colleagues first discussed closing the News of the World in June 2011 because of the number of civil liability cases being brought against it by celebrities.

The final edition was published on 10 July, less than a week after it came to light that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked.

Five days later, Mrs Brooks resigned as chief executive of the newspaper's parent company, News International.

Bags 'mix up'
Charlie and Rebekah Brooks Rebekah Brooks said her husband Charlie hid pornography from police who searched their home

Mrs Brooks told the court 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 at their apartment complex car park.

The couple's flat had been searched the day before, while Mrs Brooks was being questioned at Lewisham Police Station.

Mrs Brooks said her husband told her there had been a "mix up" over his bags.

"He was quite exasperated that the police had found his bags behind the bins," she said.

"He had been talking to the lawyers whilst I had been asleep and he was going to be arrested. I just lost it."

The prosecution says Mr Brooks hid his belongings, including the pornography, to prevent them being found by officers.

Mr and Mrs Brooks are two of seven defendants in the trial. They all deny the charges.

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