Hacked Voicemails: Andy Coulson Acknowledges He Heard Messages

Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 11:23 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Voicemails from British Home Secretary David Blunkett were at the center of the ongoing hacking scandal trial involving former employees of the now-shuttered British tabloid News of the World.

On Wednesday, the newspaper's former editor, Andy Coulson, acknowledged for the first time that he was aware of the hacked messages as editor when they were played for him by former News of the World reporter Neville Thurlbeck.

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Coulson told the London jury that he was initially "shocked" when he first learned of the hacked voicemails in 2004. The voicemails revealed that Blunkett was having an affair, The Associated Press reported.

"I remained shocked," Coulson told the jury. "This was the first and only time a voicemail had been played to me."

According to Coulson, the reporter did not disclose how the voicemail was obtained, and he had no knowledge that the material was the "product of an illegal act."

"I was very angry about it. I used some colorful language and asked 'what on earth do you think you are doing?'" Coulson said in court. "I told Neville . . . to stop whatever it is you are doing."

Despite initially telling the reporter to scrap the story, Coulson reversed his decision and gave the go ahead. He said he determined that there was "some public interest justification" because the public official could have been "distracted" by the affair.

The hacked voicemail was obtained from the cell phone of the woman with whom Blunkett was having the affair, Reuters reported.

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The voicemail was the latest in a series of messages hacked by the former British tabloid owned by Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

British prosecutors say Prince Harry and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, as well as "James Bond" actor Daniel Craig, were also hacked by News of the World employees.

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