Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is "very ambitious but not ruthless", the jury in his trial for alleged phone-hacking has heard from one of his oldest friends.
Dean Keyworth told the Old Bailey that he had met Coulson while he was a 19-year-old journalism student – before he embarked on a successful career in the media and later politics.
Coulson, 45, denies conspiring with others to hack phones between 3 October 2000 and 9 August, 2006 during the time he worked at the now-defunct tabloid.
Keyworth told the jury: "He is a very loyal friend and despite becoming extremely busy and very important he retained his friendships, he took care of them and the few people who were close to him."
"He is very ambitious but I don't think he is ruthless," the witness said, adding that Coulson "wanted to get the story but not at any cost".
The witness also said the two would have fun in nightclubs and at celebrity parties during Coulson's time as editor of showbiz column Bizarre.
He described his friend of 26 years as "self-deprecating" and someone who "played himself down".
The court heard that Keyworth met with then editor of the NoW Rebekah Brooks in April 2002 while she holidayed in Dubai with her former husband Ross Kemp.
Coulson, (pictured above) who was NoW deputy editor at the time and who the court has previously heard was in a secret relationship with his boss Brooks, put his friend and lover in contact so that he could arrange a stay for her and Kemp at the seven star Burj Al-Arab hotel.
Keyworth said he had met Brooks, then known as Rebekah Wade, for drinks and then lunch at a time when the NoW was investigating the disappearance of schoolgirl Milly Dowler by hacking into her voicemail.
But he claimed he had mainly spoken to Kemp about soap opera Eastenders, which the actor and television presenter had left months before.
Kemp, who shot to fame with his role as hard man Grant Mitchell, was pleased that he had been moved to the Burj Al-Arab because he liked the Hermes toiletries the hotel offered to guests, Keyworth told the jury.
Answering questions from prosecutor Andrew Edis QC, (pictured above) he said he had seen Brooks talking on the phone with the NoW office on 13 April, when the newspaper took evidence obtained from Milly's voicemail to Surrey Police.
But he said he had not heard what Brooks, who he had met previously at birthday parties, was talking about.
He said that she had got up from the table "a couple of times" to talk on the phone, but was mainly listening rather than talking.
The prosecution claims that the decision to inform the police about what turned out to be a false lead found on the voicemail a day after it was hacked by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was taken at the highest level.
Yesterday, Keyworth's friend William Hennessy, who also met Brooks on the same holiday, claimed that he had heard her mention "the missing Surrey schoolgirl" at the time.
Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies conspiring with others to hack phones between 3 October, 2000 and 9 August, 2006.
Mulcaire has admitted hacking phones.
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