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Rebekah Brooks quizzed about Coulson relationship at UK phone hacking trial

By Laura Smith-Spark and Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 9:52 AM EST, Fri February 21, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rebekah Brooks is questioned about her relationship with fellow defendant Andy Coulson
  • She denies having a six-year affair with Coulson but says they were close
  • Brooks and Coulson are both former editors of newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch
  • Coulson is a former director of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron

London (CNN) -- Former newspaper chief Rebekah Brooks became emotional Friday as she was quizzed in a London court about her relationship with former Downing Street spin doctor Andy Coulson at their trial on phone hacking charges.

Brooks, Coulson and five others face charges including conspiracy to intercept the voice mails of high-profile figures in Britain. All seven deny wrongdoing.

Brooks, the former chief executive of News International and onetime editor of the News of the World and The Sun newspapers, denied having a long-running affair with Coulson but said they were close.

Allegations that the two defendants had a clandestine affair emerged earlier in the trial when the prosecution read out a letter written by Brooks to Coulson, a former News of the World editor and communications director for British Prime Minister David Cameron, as he tried to end their relationship.

The prosecution said the affair ran from 1998 to 2004 -- during some of which time both Brooks and Coulson were married to others -- and it revealed the level of trust between the defendants.

Testifying in her defense Friday, Brooks said there were periods during that time when there was physical intimacy, including from 2003 to 2005 when her marriage to actor Ross Kemp was breaking up, and again briefly in 2006.

Brooks, who appeared to fight back tears at times while on the stand, did not deny writing the letter, found on a computer seized from her home, but said she had probably never intended to send it to Coulson.

"In a time of hurt when you come home and have a few glasses of wine, you shouldn't probably get on the computer, but that is what I did, so these are thoughts really to myself. ... (I) wrote it probably with the intention of finishing it and never sending it," she said.

"Andy and I were incredibly close at the time. He was my best friend. I think that comes across."

Moneymaking paper

Brooks was also asked by her defense attorney about financial matters at the News of the World while she was editor, from 2000 to 2003.

She said the Sunday tabloid was profitable under her editorship and that it handled hundreds of "contributor payment requests" per month.

Brooks said that she did not generally see the payment requests and that she had never seen those for Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator used by News of the World who was convicted on phone hacking charges in 2007.

She did not "micromanage" the budget, she told the court.

Brooks on Thursday was cleared of one charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office, at the judge's direction.

She still faces two charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, one of conspiracy to hack voice mail messages and one of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Brooks resigned as chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper arm, News International, in July 2011 amid outrage about claims of widespread hacking by staff at its News of the World newspaper. She was arrested two days later.

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