LONDON (AFP) ― British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former media chief Andy Coulson was convicted of phone hacking Tuesday but one-time Rupert Murdoch aide Rebekah Brooks was acquitted in a dramatic end to the News of the World trial.
Cameron issued a somber televised apology for hiring Coulson, showing how toxic the scandal remains nearly three years after News Corp. boss Murdoch was forced to shut down the Sunday tabloid in disgrace.
The jury at the Old Bailey court in London delivered their verdicts after eight days of deliberations and nearly eight months of detailed evidence in what had been dubbed the “trial of the century.”
An emotional Brooks had to be supported by a court nurse after the flame-haired former head of Murdoch’s British newspaper wing was acquitted of conspiring to intercept voicemails and of plotting to bribe officials for stories.
But Coulson, her former lover and her successor as editor of News of the World, faces jail following his conviction for phone hacking.
The jury is still considering further charges against him and the paper’s then royal editor, Clive Goodman.
British daily The Guardian, which has been at the center of exposing the scandal, reported on Tuesday that Scotland Yard now wants to interview Murdoch about further allegations of crime at his British newspapers.
Brooks and Coulson, both 46, had an on-off extramarital affair for several years while working at the paper, a further taste of scandal that only emerged at the start of the trial.
The case centered on News of the World’s efforts to hack the phones of Britain’s royal family, politicians, celebrities and victims of crime, including a murdered schoolgirl and families of people killed in the July 7, 2005, London bombings.
During the trial Brooks’ lawyers argued that there was “no smoking gun” to link her to the phone hacking and that the evidence was “circumstantial.”
Brooks’ current husband Charlie, a racehorse trainer, and News International director of security Mark Hanna were also cleared of perverting the course of justice by allegedly trying to hide evidence from the police.
Her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter was cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The paper’s retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner was also cleared of conspiracy to hack phones.