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Phone-hacking journalist told Coulson about list of targets, court hears


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A self-confessed phone-hacker told the Old Bailey on Monday that he was hired to work for the News of the World after personally telling the editor, Andy Coulson, that he could bring him "big, exclusive stories" by intercepting voicemail.


Former Sunday Mirror and News of the World reporter Dan Evans leaving the Old Bailey after he pleaded guilty to phone-hacking. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

A self-confessed phone-hacker told the Old Bailey on Monday that he was hired to work for the News of the World after personally telling the editor, Andy Coulson, that he could bring him "big, exclusive stories" by intercepting voicemail.

Speaking to the jury in the phone-hacking trial, Dan Evans became the first hacker to talk publicly about his work, telling the court that he had admitted conspiring to intercept communications over a seven-year period for the Sunday Mirror and the News of the World.

The court heard that Evans had agreed to become a prosecution witness last August. Voicemail interception, he told the court, had been "a pretty standard tabloid tool".

Evans appeared on the same day as the actor Jude Law, who was confronted with claims that a member of his immediate family had sold information about him to the News of the World and that a close friend and one of his employees had also been sources for the paper's coverage of his private life.

Evans told the court that he had been shown how to hack mobile phone messages by a journalist on the Sunday Mirror and had done so for the paper "on a fairly grand scale". The News of the World had then made a series of attempts to poach him, culminating in a breakfast meeting at the Aldwych Hotel in central London in October 2004.

He told the jury he met Andy Coulson, then editing the News of the World, and another journalist from the paper, "Mr A", with whom he had already held two meetings.

He ordered scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and then told Coulson about his background and experience with investigations. "I moved on to voicemail interception and told him how I'd got a lot of commercially sensitive data stored in my head."

He had told Coulson about a list of hacking targets, complete with phone numbers and PIN codes, which he had compiled for the Sunday Mirror. "I told him I could bring him big, exclusive stories cheaply, which was like the 'ker-ching moment'."

Coulson had asked him how he would run an investigation and he had told the then editor that he could go out and meet people or he could hack into somebody's phone, find a story "and boom – you've got something that's going to shift units from supermarket shelves".

Evans said he would not have used the expression "phone-hacking" in talking to Coulson but would have talked about "stuff with phones". He added: "There was not an awful lot of doubt that I was talking about voicemail interception."

He had described a series of "humdinger" stories that he had landed for the front page of the Sunday Mirror. "I said these were achieved through this method. Andy knew what the context of it was."

Coulson had shaken hands after breakfast and, 10 minutes later, Mr A had called to tell him: "You've done brilliantly. You've got the job."

Questioned by Andrew Edis QC for the Crown, Evans told the court that he had started on Fleet Street in 2001, doing shifts as a news reporter for the Sunday Mirror before joining the staff in mid-2003.

"There was a point after I had taken the staff job when I was taken to one side by a senior executive and tasked with something that was a secret. He proceeded to show me how to hack voicemail for the first time and proceeded to show me a bundle of pages with famous people's phone numbers and details. He said: 'Right. This is your job – to hack and crack the PIN codes of all these people'."

Evans said that in May 2004 he was contacted by James Weatherup, who had previously worked with him at the Sunday Mirror but had left to become news editor at the News of the World. "In common with other senior journalists on the paper, he was aware that I had been tasked to hack people's phones on a fairly grand scale."

Weatherup had invited him to a bar in Wapping and encouraged him to join him at the News of the World, in part because of his skill at intercepting voicemail: "I could bring my knowledge of phone-hacking to the News of the World. I knew the Sunday Mirror's phone-hacking regime inside out."

Evans had turned him down, in part because he was becoming depressed by the amount of hacking he was already doing. "I was forsaking stuff that I really enjoyed doing."

Weatherup had persisted, inviting him back to the bar where he introduced him to another journalist from the News of the World – "a bombastic character" – who had told him: "I know you can screw phones. What else can you do?"

The meeting ended abruptly, Evans said, when he made it clear he was not interested. It was after that, in September 2004, that he had been approached by Mr A.

He told the jury he had originally met Mr A the previous year at a Sunday Mirror leaving party for Weatherup: "James was giving his speech and there was a lot of heckling from the crowd, and something came up to do with sources of stories. I remember Mr A shouting in a very knowing voice 'I don't understand why people don't change their fucking voicemail PINs'."

At that point, Evans said, a colleague from the Sunday Mirror had come over and led him away, telling Mr A: "You leave him alone. He's ours." Evans added: "You can take from that that voicemail interception was a pretty standard tool in the tabloid journalistic kit, ie most people knew about it."

Evans said he was hired to work in the News of the World's features department after the breakfast with Mr A and Coulson. Features, he said, was in a state of "internal tension" with the news desk, going "head to head" in competition with each other every week. He recalled one journalist talking to him about phone-hacking, saying: "News have been doing it for ages. My view is that if you can't beat them, join them."

Evans said he hacked phones "probably most days", as well as using a firm of inquiry agents, TDI, who obtained confidential phone data, bank details, tax information and medical records on targets.

Stories obtained by these "dark arts", he said, needed "a line of deniability". He suggested that if a hacked phone disclosed two people having an affair, the paper would then try to buy the story of one of the parties to the affair. "That's kind of how tabloid journalism was working at that time," he said.

He said he had finally been caught in 2009 when he had attempted to hack the phone of an interior designer, Kelly Hoppen, and "failed miserably", triggering an automatic security alert that warned Hoppen that somebody had tried to access her voicemail with the wrong PIN code. That had then been traced to his company phone. "I was a moron," he said.

Evans has pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to intercept communications between February 2003 and June 2010.

Coulson denies one count of conspiring to intercept communications.


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