A journalist who claimed to have recorded a voicemail left on Bond star Daniel Craig’s phone has been told in court there was no call data evidence that he had hacked the phone when he said he had.
Dan Evans, 39, a prosecution witness in the trial of former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, had embellished his evidence and added gloss to his account, an Old Bailey jury was told.
Wallis, 64, denies one charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemail communications.
Evans, who joined the tabloid from the rival Sunday Mirror, had told the court Wallis congratulated him on hacking a message left by actor Sienna Miller on Craig’s phone, taking his elbow and saying: “You’re a company man now, Dan.”
But, said Neil Saunders, counsel for Wallis, in previous notes of meetings between Evans and his lawyers, that phrase had been attributed to the newspaper’s features editor, Jules Stenson.
The same notes also made no mention of Wallis being present when Evans claimed to have played a recording of the message to senior staff on the paper in September 2005, including then editor Andy Coulson, said Saunders.
“Why is there no mention here of Neil Wallis?” he asked.
Evans said it was an error of the note-taker at the meeting. “The tape was played on a number of occasions throughout the day,” he said under cross-examination. “To the best of my recollection, Mr Wallis did listen to that tape, he did take me by the elbow, and he did say: ‘You’re a company man now, Dan.’ Those were his words.
“This is the relevant part and it’s true.”
Saunders quizzed Evans about the weekend he claimed to have hacked Craig’s phone and listened to the message, which led to the newspaper publishing a story about an apparent affair between Craig and Miller, who was then with actor Jude Law.
“There is no call data that supports Daniel Craig being hacked by you on that weekend?” said Saunders.
Evans said he regularly hacked Craig because he was a “rising star” and attracted “famous, sexy ladies”. The voicemail had been confirmed by Miller, and the News of the World had paid out over it, he said, explaining he may have used a direct dial number to access the voicemail, or a pay-as-you-go.
Saunders pointed to other alleged discrepancies in Evans’s evidence. He had told the jury that he first met Wallis at a London pub when the News of the World was trying to recruit him from the Sunday Mirror.
“You said you get there first, got yourself a pint and ‘Neil made a disparaging remark about me buying myself a pint, something like, I see you’ve not finished your round, I don’t like that’,” said Saunders. But, in an earlier statement there was no mention of this, he added.
“Did you just make this up yesterday, Mr Evans, to embellish your account?”
“No,” replied Evans.
Saunders turned to Evans’s accusation that Wallis told him at that interview: “So I know you can screw phones, what else can you do?” But, said Saunders, the phrase “screw” phones was attributed to Stenson in the earlier accounts Evans had given to his lawyers.
“I suggest you transplant phrases,” said Saunders. “I suggest you’re wrong,” replied Evans.
The jury has heard Evans, who admitted hacking and received a suspended sentence, had agreed to co-operate with the police investigation into phone hacking. He made an 80,000-word statement, drafted over six weeks of scoping interviews, Evans said.
Evans was arrested after a failed hack attempt on the phone of Kelly Hoppen, former stepmother to Miller, but originally denied the charge, before making an admission. He told the jury: “It was a matter for me and my conscience whether I wanted to stop peddling the News International line, which was completely bogus, or basically ‘man up’ and take responsibility, which is what I wanted to do.”
He claimed to have learned phone hacking at the Sunday Mirror, where, he alleged, the euphemism “overheard talking on the phone” was used.
Saunders asked him if he knew it was illegal. He said he knew it was, and “given the level of secrecy and cover-up around it” that others thought it was too. But he thought there might be some “wriggle room” which could be exploited by “clever lawyers”.
Asked if his output from phone hacking went down at the News of the World, he said: “It had never been particularly prolific, as it had been at the Sunday Mirror, no.” Asked if he had a “reluctance” to intercept voicemails, he said: “It wasn’t something I was happy about.”
He said he hacked Craig’s phone the weekend after receiving a “shouty” email from Stenson, warning him if he did not get a front-page story, he might as well “jump off a cliff or a bridge”. He said that, in a verbal mauling, Stenson had also told him: “Your USP is the phones.” The weekly features conference was a “rotating platter of hate” with somebody always “getting it in the neck”, he said, describing the bullying as “a culture”.
He had originally claimed to have played the tape to Coulson and Wallis on the Tuesday after that weekend. “My genuine heartfelt belief at that time was it was the Tuesday,” he said. But diaries had proved that was not the case and he now believed it to have been on a Thursday, he said.
The case continues.
Source: The Guardian