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News Of The World editor Andy Coulson 'knew Milly Dowler's messages had been intercepted'

By Lewis Smith

Former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson knew murdered teenager Milly Dowler's voicemail messages had been intercepted before the paper published details of a call, a court heard.

Neville Thurlbeck, the paper's chief reporter at the time, said Mr Coulson knew the details had come from Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator instructed to research suspects.

However, he told the High Court in Edinburgh that Mr Coulson, then acting editor, and the newspaper believed the messages had been leaked by one of the investigator's police contacts.

"At no stage was Andy aware that the voicemails had been illegally intercepted," Mr Thurlbeck said.

Mr Coulson (47), the Prime Minister's former director of communications, is accused of lying under oath in the 2010 perjury trial of former Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan.

Prosecutors claim he falsely stated that, before the arrest of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and News Of The World journalist Clive Goodman in 2006, he did not know that Goodman was involved in phone hacking with Mulcaire. He denies the charges.

Mr Thurlbeck also said that hacked messages were the source of a story about former Home Secretary David Blunkett having an affair.

The court heard that the story originated from the illegal interception of voicemails left on a phone in 2004.

The court was shown an exclusive front page News Of The World story written by Mr Thurlbeck and printed on August 15, 2004 headlined 'Blunkett Affair with A Married Woman'. Mr Thurlbeck (53) told the court he first heard the messages around the late spring or early summer of 2004.

"I was contacted by Glenn Mulcaire who played me the tape of an interception down the phone," he said. He said he then "rang Andy Coulson", who was on holiday at the time, and told him he'd been played a "voicemail message left by David Blunkett".

"I said it was our private investigator," he told wthe court.

He said Coulson reacted with "extreme caution" and told him to stop.

Asked what he told Coulson about the source of the story, he said: "I said it was done by Glenn, our private investigator."

Mr Thurlbeck insisted he had not used the investigator's surname.

The trial continues today.

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