LONDON (Reuters) - Andy Coulson, a former Rupert Murdoch editor, said on Tuesday he had played no part in the hacking of the mobile phone messages of murdered British teenager Milly Dowler, the revelation that led to the closure of the News of the World tabloid.
Coulson, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s one-time media chief, told the Old Bailey trial he had never engaged in illegal hacking activity, nor known about attempts to tap in to Dowler’s messages.
Dowler, 13, vanished from her home in March 2002 and her body was discovered some six months later.
The revelation in July 2011 that her phone had been hacked while she was still missing, giving her parents false hope that she was still alive, sparked public anger and a sequence of events leading to Murdoch closing the 168-year-old News of the World, Coulson’s arrest and Cameron ordering a public inquiry into press ethics.
In the witness box for the second day in the 5-1/2 month trial, Coulson was asked by his lawyer Timothy Langdale whether he had ever been “party to or in agreement with phone hacking at the News of the World?”
“No I was not,” he answered.
“Were you aware of any activity by the News of the World in relation to the hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemail messages?”
“No, I was not,” he replied again.
Coulson is accused of conspiracy to illegally intercept voicemails on mobile phones and authorising illegal payments to public officials. He denies the charges.
Asked what he would have thought then about the process of accessing voicemails to generate stories, Coulson said he would have thought it was intrusive, a breach of privacy and lazy journalism.
Reporting by Kate Holton and Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison