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November 25, 2013updated 26 Nov 2013 3:02pm

‘Rebekah told me how easy it was to listen to celebrity voicemails’, court told

By Press Association

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks told the ex-wife of top golfer Colin Montgomerie about the ease of hacking celebrity mobile phones, the Old Bailey heard today.

Eimear Cook, who was married for 14 years to the former Ryder Cup captain from 1990 arranged a meeting with Brooks – then known as Rebekah Wade – through mutual friends.

During the intimate lunch, Cook expressed concern over the increasing press intrusion into her life and the lives of a three children as a result of the break-up of her marriage.

Cook told the court that during the lunch, they discussed celebrities such as Kate Moss and Paul McCartney.

Cook, who has since remarried, said: "We discussed a lot about public figures, people in the media, in a gossipy, fun way.

"I remember the topic of how easy it was to listen to their voicemails, as long as they hadn't changed their factory settings.

"She (Brooks) said that it was so easy to do and she couldn't believe that famous people… that they would have all these advisers and all you needed to do was change the Pin code to make the voicemail secure.

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"She told me Heather Mills was engaged to Sir Paul McCartney at the time and she had thrown her ring out of a window, it was in parentheses about phone hacking. I had the impression she was talking about Sir Paul McCartney's phone not having its Pin code changed."

Cook described Brooks' demeanour as "flippant".

She told the jury: "She (Brooks pictured above) told me how ludicrous it was – the simple need for people to protect their privacy.

"She went on to tell me about Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. "

Cook said it felt "like the papers were doing a hatchet job" on her following the couple's split.

She added: "They alleged that I had numerous multiple affairs. They were unbelievably upsetting."

She said the rumours were untrue but some reporters and photographers waited outside her house for her during the break-up.

Cook said she accepted her life was in the public while married to the golfer, but she had "never spoken to the press (about my marriage)".

Under cross examination from Brooks' counsel Jonathan Laidlaw, Cook admitted she may have got the date of the meeting with the former newspaper executive mixed up. 

Laidlaw also presented the court with magazine articles in which Cook had appeared to offer "frank" details of her private life.

Cook said she did not always speak to journalists, that some stories were unfounded and inaccurate, and added: "I never gave an interview about difficulties in my marriage."

The court was shown a copy of Cook's statement to the police about the lunch with Brooks, at which it was alleged the newspaper editor discussed phone hacking.

The statement also included  Cook recalling a "frank" Brooks discussing being in the papers – including her own – for assaulting then-husband, the EastEnders actor Ross Kemp.

However, Laidlaw said that element of the conversation could not have happened – because the assault did not take place until November 2005, some six weeks after the lunch meeting.

Laidlaw said: "It's not just a suggestion that it never happened – it couldn't have happened. It's quite impossible for this to have happened.

"You will understand why I make the suggestion of you, not only that it didn't happen, but that it couldn't have happened."

Cook replied: "I did not make it up. I have no grievance against Mrs Brooks whatsoever."

Laidlaw continued: "I am sorry to suggest this, however I make no apology – you have, I suggest, lied to the jury."

Cook replied: "I categorically deny that."

Laidlaw said the matter of phone hacking did not arise either. "It was not discussed by Mrs Brooks," he said. "This is a lie, you have told the police and the jury."

Cook said: "This is not a lie."

Laidlaw said that the lunch had actually included a conversation in which Mrs Cook told his client she had been abused during the marriage.

He said: "You went on to tell her there was something of a record at that event (the alleged abuse).

Cook replied: "I don't remember how much I spoke about it."

Laidlaw said the witness told Brooks there was some sort of official record of the incident, that it had apparently taken place in a hotel, according to Cook.

"You asked Mrs Brooks if she could run with that story," Laidlaw asked.

Cook replied: "No, that is absolutely not true. I never asked her to run a story about my ex-husband. I completely refute that."

The court heard Cook had made a claim for damages against the NoW since discovering she had been a victim of phone hacking.

She said she felt "humiliated" after it was disclosed that Mulcaire had kept notes on her. "I had no private life whatsoever," she said.

She denied having a vendetta against the newspaper. Asked if she had known she was a phone hacking victim before she had spoken to the police, Cook said: "I suspected I might have been. But I didn't know for sure."

The trial continues.

All of the defendants deny all of the charges.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

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