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Brooks admitted Coulson ‘could not survive’ hacking scandal at PM’s birthday bash, court told

By Press Association

Former News International boss Rebekah Brooks told a pal of David Cameron that her former lover Andy Coulson would not survive the phone-hacking scandal, the Old Bailey heard today.

Brooks was talking to Dom Loehnis at a birthday party for the Prime Minister at his Chequers country retreat in October 2010.

The court heard that Loehnis, a former journalist and now recruitment headhunter was sitting beside Brooks at the party when he asked about Coulson’s future.

The court heard Loehnis asked Brooks about the impact the phone-hacking convictions of Glenn Mulciare and ex-royal editor Clive Goodman would have.

Loehnis asked whether Coulson could survive the fallout as the story “didn’t seem to be going away".

Recalling the "brief exchange" Loehnis, who had known Brooks before the party, told the court: "(Brooks said) simply that when people had worked out how to do it, who knew how many people could learn how to do it?

"It could be fairly frequent."

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Loehnis said he could not remember the conversation exactly, but said: "I got the impression it was something that when you discover you can do it, you do it because you can."

Loehnis said Brooks, sat next to him on the table, said that there was "one default code" on mobile phones – factory settings – that "nobody changed".

He recalled: "She said… If you rang someone's voicemail you were asked for a code. Some people rang it and got hold of voicemails."

Loehnis said he briefly quizzed Brooks on the future of Coulson, who had been brought on board by Cameron as director of communications before the general election that year. Coulson was not at the party, Loehnis told the court.

He said: "She (Brooks) felt the story wouldn't go away and the reason for that was that at a certain point in time people had discovered you could get into mobile voicemails.

"At that point in time, when people had worked it out, who knew how many people could have done it?

"It wasn't an easy story to close down."

Loehnis, who delivered an ode to the PM at the party in the form of a poem, added: "She said that she wasn't sure that he (Coulson) could survive."

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, defending Brooks, said his client remembered Loehnis was "concerned as a friend" of the Prime Minister whether the sort of publicity attracted by the phone-hacking scandal "might be a problem for the Conservative Party".

Loehnis agreed.

Laidlaw added: "Her recollection is something like this: 'Do you (Brooks) think this phone hacking is going to be a problem for the Tories because of Andy?'."

The witness replied: "Something like that. 'Could he survive?' was my recollection. There was a lot of pressure on him (Coulson)."

Laidlaw said the reason Brooks agreed there might be pressure on the party was because "the spokesman had become the story".

Defending, he said: "She (Brooks) might have used the phrase 'It gives the opposition a stick with which to beat the Tories'."

The trial continues.

All of the defendants deny all of the charges.

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