Brooks approved payment for Prince bikini photo, court told

Old Bailey phone-hacking trial hears that the Sun newspaper did not publish the picture but ran a mock-up over the headline ‘Willy in a Bikini’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 5:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 December, 2013, 5:52pm

Rebekah Brooks approved a 4,000 pound (HK$50,680) payment for a photograph of Prince William in a bikini posing as a Bond girl when she edited the Sun, but never published the picture, the Old Bailey central criminal court in London has heard.

The former News International chief executive was forwarded an email from a journalist on the paper when she was editor requesting the money for a contact at Sandhurst, the military academy where the prince was training in 2006. When asked “What do you think, boss?” she replied “OK”, the hacking trial jury was told on Thursday.

Prosecutor Rebecca Chalkley said the picture was not published, but the Sun ran a “mock-up” of it, with William’s head superimposed on someone else’s body and the headline “Willy in a Bikini” in September 2006.

The article claimed “Prince William caused a stir at a Sandhurst 007 bash by dressing as a Bond girl” and added his then girlfriend Kate Middleton attended the party wearing a wetsuit and carrying a toy gun.

The jury was shown the email which read: “My best contact at Sandhurst who has provided a string of great stuff over a period of months, offered us a picture of William at a James Bond party dressed as a Bond girl. He is wearing a bikini and an open Hawaiian shirt.

“He is an instructor at Sandhurst and the picture in question belongs to a fellow instructor who is very concerned by the idea of the snap ending up in the Sun. He also happens to be William’s direct platoon commander.”

The email continued that the person offering the photograph wanted 4,000 pounds “up front” to pay for a course for his wife, but that the picture should only be used when Sandhurst was on its summer break. The journalist added: “He assures me that although this is not the way we would normally operate we would not be let down. Indeed I already have the guy with the photo over a barrel because I know his identity.”

The email was forwarded to Brooks. “Less than ten minutes later, she says OK,” said Chalkey.

Brooks denies conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Paddy Harverson, former communication secretary to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, told the jury he recalled a conversation with Brooks about the Sun proposing to publish a photograph of William.

He said the conversation, in August 2006, was as a result of the Sun publishing pictures and a story about Prince Harry headlined “Playboy prince cops a feel. Dirty Harry”. The front page story and double spread inside alleged Harry was “canoodling” with a woman who was not his then girlfriend, the court heard.

Harverson said he told Brooks, then Rebekah Wade, the Harry photographs were old and not recently taken.

Notes he made during the conversation were shown to the jury. In them he wrote “RW: my guy say did deal on Friday. He claimed they were his pictures. We knew him”.

Harverson also wrote down Brooks saying: “If we fucked up, what are we going to say.”

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, for Brooks asked him if this was Brooks accepting “and I won’t use her language, but that ‘we got it wrong’” over the Harry story.

Harverson agreed. The paper had published an apology the next day, the jury heard.

Referring to the same notes, Laidlaw highlighted one other passage in which Harverson had written “pic of PW in underwear wearing pink feather boa”.

Laidlaw put it to him: “There was a discussion, but it was about a different photograph. About the prince in boxer shorts and a feather boa and not about the prince wearing a bikini.”

Harverson said he told Brooks that if the Sun had a picture of William at a private party it would be in breach of his privacy to publish it. He added: “It was interesting to see they didn’t publish the photograph.”

Laidlaw told the jury the “underwear” photograph was never published by the Sun, but was published by the Sunday People in 2011.

Detective inspector David Kennett, from the London Metropolitan police’s Operation Elevden investigation into alleged illegal payments by journalists to public officials, was asked by Laidlaw if he had ever considered whether the email request for money that Brooks approved might have related to three individuals rather than two – and that a third individual might have been involved.

He replied he had not.

The case continues.