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NotW chiefs 'had six-year affair'

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson had an affair for at least six years, a jury has heard.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told jurors at the Old Bailey that Brooks declared her love for Coulson in a letter from February 2004, when he tried to end their relationship.

Mr Edis said: "It is clear from that letter that, as of February 2004, they had been having an affair which had lasted at least six years."

The court heard that the pair had been having an affair dating back to around 1998, spanning the period covered by their phone-hacking conspiracy charge.

Brooks, who was editor of the News of the World (NotW) when Coulson was her deputy, wrote: "The fact is you are my very best friend, I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you, we laugh and cry together.

"In fact, without our relationship in my life I am not sure I will cope."

Mr Edis told the jury of nine women and three men that he was not revealing the affair to deliberately intrude into the pair's privacy or to make a "moral judgment".

"But Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson are charged with conspiracy and, when people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is how well did they know each other? How much did they trust each other?," he said.

"And the fact that they were in this relationship which was a secret means that they trusted each other quite a lot with at least that secret and that's why we are telling you about it."

He said the revelation was likely to attract a "great deal of publicity" and might draw some "unfair, unkind and unnecessary" comment.

Mr Edis said of the letter: "It appears that Mr Coulson was seeking to break off the affair... and this is Mrs Brooks' reaction to him telling her that and it is clearly obvious from the letter that it caused her a great deal of grief."

Brooks remained with her head bowed and Coulson looked ahead towards the prosecutor as their affair was revealed to the jury.

The court heard that Brooks went on holiday to Dubai in April 2002, but remained in contact with Coulson while she was away as the newspaper planned to run a front-page story about murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Mr Edis said: "That's why you need to have the full context of their relationship - because while she was away, she was in contact with him, we say.

"Of course, what I've told you may mean that they had all sorts of personal reasons for wanting to remain in contact with each other, but we say to you that it's clear from the timing of the contact that it was at least partly work-related."

Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; Coulson, also 45, from Charing in Kent; former NotW head of news Ian Edmondson, 44, from Raynes Park, south west London; and the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex, all deny conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.

The jury has already been told that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was paid around £100,000 per year, has admitted phone hacking.

Prosecutors claim that Mulcaire, Brooks, Coulson and Kuttner were involved in a conspiracy to hack Milly's voicemail.

The prosecutor said the schoolgirl's family went through an "agony of hope" as they "yearned for their missing daughter" for months until her body was found in the autumn of 2002.

"The prosecution say that the NotW, through Mr Mulcaire, hacked her (Milly's) phone during that time," he said.

"We say that Mr Mulcaire did the hacking and Mrs Brooks, Mr Coulson and Mr Kuttner - not Mr Edmondson, he wasn't around at that time - were criminally involved in the conspiracy which resulted from that phone hacking."

Jurors were taken through a timeline of events that led up to a story that came from a hacked voicemail message on Milly's phone, including phone calls from Brooks to the NotW newsdesk.

The court also heard that Brooks told Eimear Cook, former wife of golfer Colin Montgomerie, that phone hacking had been used for a story about ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney.

"She said all you needed was a person's mobile phone number and a factory pin and you could listen to their voicemail, and actually gave an example of a story involving Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills," Mr Edis told the jury.

He said there was evidence that Sir Paul and his then wife had been targets of phone hacking by Mulcaire.

This led to a story in the NotW in June 2002 with the headline Macca Throws Heather's Ring Out Of Hotel Window, he claimed.

Jurors were also told that Coulson confronted former home secretary David Blunkett over his affair with married Kimberly Quinn, which the newspaper had discovered through hacking her voicemails.

In a conversation recorded by Mr Blunkett, Coulson told him of plans to run the story in the NotW and said that it had come from "extremely reliable sources".

Coulson said: "It is based on extremely reliable sources", and added: " I am not able to lay out clear-cut evidence but I believe it to be true."

As well as the phone hacking charge, ex-NotW and Sun editor Brooks is also accused of two counts of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office - one between January 1 2004 and January 31 2012 and the other between February 9 2006 and October 16 2008 - linked to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials.

Coulson is also facing two allegations that he conspired with former royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, from Addlestone in Surrey, and other unknown people to commit misconduct in public office - between August 31 2002 and January 31 2003, and between January 31 and June 3 2005.

It is claimed that Goodman paid palace policemen for copies of royal phone directories - allegedly authorised by Coulson - to get information on members of the Royal Family.

Brooks also faces two allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - one with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, 49, from Chelmsford in Essex, between July 6 and 9 2011; and a second with her husband, Charles Brooks, and former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna, and others between July 15 and July 19 2011.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

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