UK

Neil Wallis denies NoW hacking knowledge

Neil Wallis arriving at court on 8 June 2015 Image copyright AFP/Getty

Former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis has denied any knowledge of the phone hacking activities for which one of its reporters was convicted.

The prosecution alleges Mr Wallis knew Dan Evans could illegally intercept voicemails and tried to recruit him during a meeting at a bar.

But he told the Old Bailey claims he had told Evans he knew he could "screw phones" were "absolutely untrue".

Mr Wallis, 64, of Chiswick, London, denies conspiracy to hack voicemails.

'Dishevelled looks'

He said he had "no recollection whatsoever" of meeting Evans at a bar with news editor James Weatherup, as alleged by the prosecution.

Mr Wallis, who was deputy editor from 2003 to 2007, also told the jury he only had a vague memory of the reporter when he worked at the now-defunct tabloid.

Asked what his impression of Evans was, he said: "My impression of him is he always looked dishevelled, he always looked like he had a hangover, he always looked like he could do with a shave."

Evans has previously pleaded guilty and been sentenced for hacking voicemails whilst at the News of the World.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The final edition of the News of the World was published in July 2011

Mr Wallis was also asked about the publication of a story in 2004 involving then Home Secretary David Blunkett's affair with a married woman.

He told the jury that former NoW editor Andy Coulson was originally "very angry" that chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck was investigating the home secretary.

Mr Thurlbeck had told Mr Wallis he phoned his editor, who was on holiday at the time, to tell him about the story, the court heard.

According to Mr Wallis, "Andy Coulson had got very angry with him, he told him [Mr Thurlbeck] to stop it immediately."

Asked why he was also unhappy about the investigation, he explained that Les Hinton, at the time the executive chairman of News International, was a good friend of Mr Blunkett.

Mr Wallis then told the court that he thought the story was "done and dusted" only for Mr Coulson to tell him weeks later that he was "going to revive Neville Thurlbeck's David Blunkett investigation."

'Dangerous and difficult'

The jury heard the former deputy editor had "a lot of grave concerns" about the story and he was tasked by the editor to talk to Mr Thurlbeck about it so he "did not mess this up".

Asked by his barrister Neil Saunders to explain what he meant, Mr Wallis told the court: "This is the home secretary, he's surrounded round the clock by armed police officers. Following him, by definition, is going to be a very dangerous and difficult thing to do without being caught or worse."

When Mr Saunders asked what "worse" meant, he elaborated: "One of our journalists could have got shot."

Mr Wallis said he was unaware of transcripts and tape recordings of voicemails, left on Mr Blunkett's married lover's phone, being stored in company lawyer Tom Crone's safe.

Asked if he knew if the woman's phone had been hacked, he said: "No."

Of the transcripts, Mr Wallis said: "The first time I saw them was in these case papers."

He said he believed the story of the affair had come from a "source close to" the married woman.

'Company man' claim

Mr Wallis was then asked about a recording of a voicemail left on the phone of actor Daniel Craig in late 2005.

When he gave evidence, Evans had told the court he played the recording - which alerted NoW journalists to the possibility the James Bond star and Sienna Miller were having an affair - to Mr Wallis and Mr Coulson.

Evans claimed that after playing the tape, Mr Wallis took him by the arm and said: "You're a company man now."

Asked about the exchange, Mr Wallis denied saying such a thing and also told the jury the tape was "never played" in his presence.

The trial continues.

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