Former editor tells hacking trial he heard Blunkett voicemails

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THE former editor of the News of the World has admitted he listened to private voicemail messages left by South Yorkshire MP David Blunkett.

Andy Coulson told the phone hacking trial of his shock at hearing the then Home Secretary “declaring his love” for the married publisher of The Spectator Kimberly Fortier. Coulson said he initially called a halt to the story in 2004 but later changed his mind and confronted the Sheffield MP about it.

The evidence about the Blunkett affair is the first time the former Downing Street spin doctor has told the trial that he heard a hacked voicemail at the NotW.

During his third day in the witness box at the Old Bailey, Coulson said he was first alerted to the story by then-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck while he was on holiday in Italy.

Coulson, 46, said: “Neville told me he had a tip that David Blunkett was having an affair. He said that he believed the story was true because he heard some voicemails.

“I was shocked because he told me he had heard some voicemail messages and because it was in relation to David Blunkett, the Home Secretary.

“I was quite angry about it. I used reasonably colourful language, words to the effect ‘What in earth do you think you’re doing?’

“My concern was it was an apparent breach of privacy and I was concerned also that this was involving somebody who I knew. He was somebody we were broadly supportive of.”

When he returned to work, Coulson said he had a meeting with Mr Thurlbeck, who argued his case by playing some voicemails.

Coulson told the jury: “I remember a message which David Blunkett sent which was effectively declaring his love.

“He was also saying he had considered making the relationship public.

“He (Mr Thurlbeck) told me he believed the relationship had been going on for three years.”

Coulson is the last of seven defendants to give evidence. He denies conspiracy to hack phones and conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. The trial was adjourned until Tuesday morning.