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Clarke tells jury of affair rumours

Former home secretary Charles Clarke has described how he faced false rumours that he was having an affair with his "blonde, attractive" special adviser.

The politician told jurors at the Old Bailey that he "wouldn't dream" of having a sexual relationship with his former aide, Hannah Pawlby, and said he had threatened to sue the Sun for libel if it ran such a story.

Prosecutors allege that journalists at the News of the World (NotW) accessed Miss Pawlby's voicemails in 2005 after hearing a rumour that the pair were having an affair.

Andrew Edis QC asked Mr Clarke: "Was there any truth in that rumour?"

He replied: "Absolutely not. I have never had a relationship of that kind with Hannah. I wouldn't dream of doing so and the suggestion is completely untrue."

Mr Clarke, who was home secretary from December 2004 to May 2006, said he was approached by the political editor of the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh, who claimed he had evidence of the affair and would try to get it covered sympathetically in the newspaper, the court heard.

Mr Clarke said: "I said that there was absolutely no basis for him to have any such evidence as such a relationship did not exist.

"As there was no substance to it at all, I wasn't prepared to discuss it with him and I said that we should just end the conversation, which we did."

Miss Pawlby was also approached by another journalist from the Sun about the rumour.

"She was naturally extremely distressed about this allegation and came to tell me about it," Mr Clarke said. "I decided that I would phone the editor of the Sun - Rebekah Wade, Rebekah Brooks - to make it clear to her that such a story was completely untrue and that in the event that they did publish I would sue for libel."

Mrs Brooks, nee Wade, was away at the time so he spoke to a colleague and no story appeared, the jury heard.

Earlier, jurors were shown an email sent by journalists from the NotW features desk, which said: "Lewis (Panther - a journalist) has had a tip that Home Secretary Charles Clarke is having an affair with his blonde, attractive special adviser Hannah Pawlby.

"He got this from a Westminster insider who fancied Pawlby, was going to ask her out and was told 'Don't bother wasting your time, she's with Charles'."

The-then features editor, Jules Stenson, replied to colleagues saying that the story was a "non-runner" because the news team had "a head start".

Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; former NotW editor Andy 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, are on trial for conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.

Answering questions from Alison Pople, representing Coulson, Mr Clarke agreed that he had a good working relationship with NotW employees during his time as secretary of state.

He collaborated with the newspaper on campaigns against bullying and in favour of better compensation for victims of the 7/7 terror attacks while at the Home Office.

Mr Clarke said his involvement in these stories aimed to "influence people's behaviour" and reduce social problems.

But he also said that he had worked with journalists on general political stories "to get understanding and support for government policies".

The jury was also shown an interview Mr Clarke gave in March 2013 to NotW investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood about illegal immigration.

Asked about Mr Mahmood, Mr Clarke said: "He had a reputation - the NotW put him in dramatic situations. He had senstational stories in the paper which were often accurate, sometimes inaccurate.

"I thought it was my job to get the story across."

Mr Clarke said that, although he knew Coulson, to his recollection the then NotW editor had never mentioned the affair rumour to him.

Jurors were played recordings recovered from the home of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, of voicemails left on Miss Pawlby's phone.

They included two from Coulson - in the first he was heard saying that the NotW planned to run "quite a serious story" about Mr Clarke and that he wanted to speak to him.

Miss Pawlby told the jury she was aware of the false affair claims, and that former NotW political editor Ian Kirby said the rumours had been circulating around the newsroom.

Miss Pawlby said: "There was no truth in the rumour."

She recalled being contacted by a Sun journalist who was working for a political gossip column in around 2006 about the claims.

"She said she had pictures of Charles and I and that we were having an affair and said that they were going to run the story and what did I say to that," Miss Pawlby told the jury.

"I said I wasn't having an affair."

Notes made by Mulcaire, who has admitted phone hacking, included Miss Pawlby's parents' landline number and address, the court heard, as well as the phone number of one of their friends who used to work for MI6.

Her brother's phone number was also included in the notes.

Later the jury heard that former Atomic Kitten singer Kerry Katona was hacked by Mulcaire on numerous occasions, including on Christmas Day 2005.

Just a few days after, on New Year's Day 2006, a story appeared in the NotW about problems the 33-year-old was allegedly having with ex-husband Brian McFadden's mother.

She was also hacked four times in the space of three hours before the tabloid ran stories with the headlines Kerry In New Coke Shocker and Kerry Drug Row on December 4 2005.

Mulcaire named Katona as a project on a computer entry as he monitored her after she split with Westlife singer McFadden in September 2004.

His interceptions of her voicemails were repeatedly followed by stories about her in the newspaper from January to March 2006.

And in June of that year he sent an email to Edmondson with the subject "Katona" and a list of "fav no's", with another story appearing days later, the jury was told.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.


From Belfast Telegraph