Blair offered to advise in hacking scandal

LONDON — Former prime minister Tony Blair of Britain offered to unofficially advise Rebekah Brooks and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch at the height of the phone-hacking scandal in 2011 that led to the closure of the News of the World tabloid, prosecutors said.

Rebekah Brooks, then the head of News Corp.’s British unit, had an hourlong discussion with Blair in which he also proposed an independent inquiry into allegations that the newspaper accessed voicemail messages of celebrities, politicians, and murder victims, according to an e-mail disclosed at a criminal trial in London Wednesday.

Brooks, 45, sent the e-mail describing the conversation to Murdoch’s son James, then the New York-based company’s deputy chief operating officer, on July 11, 2011, the day after the final issue of the News of the World was published. The scandal deepened a week earlier after the discovery that News Corp. journalists had hacked the phone of a murdered school girl.


Blair offered his services as an unofficial adviser to the Murdochs and Brooks, but the offer ‘‘needs to be between us,’’ Brooks told James Murdoch in the e-mail. Brooks was arrested six days later.

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Brooks is one of seven people on trial for charges related to phone hacking, bribery of public officials, and hiding evidence. Andy Coulson, another former editor of the tabloid who later advised current Prime Minister David Cameron, is also on trial in the case.

Blair also told Brooks to keep a clear head and ‘‘tough up,’’ according to her e-mail.

‘‘Keep strong and definitely sleeping pills,’’ Blair said, according to the e-mail submitted by prosecutors.

An earlier e-mail between the two discussed sales of the final issue of the News of the World. Brooks mentioned a ‘‘Hutton-style’’ investigation, referring to a judicial review related to the Iraq war.


‘‘This was Mr. Blair simply giving informal advice over the phone,’’ Blair’s office said. ‘‘Though he knew nothing personally about the facts of the case, in a situation as serious as this it was essential to have a fully transparent and independent process to get to the bottom of what had happened.’’

Days before the tabloid was scheduled to close, Brooks sent an e-mail to James Murdoch on July 8, prosecutors said. The note, titled ‘‘Plan B,’’ outlined her plans to distance herself from the growing scandal and lay blame on other company officials, including Les Hinton, then chief executive of News Corp.’s Dow Jones unit, and Colin Myler, who was editor of the News of the World.

The prosecution has now officially closed its case in the trial that has lasted almost four months. Brooks’s lawyers will begin their defense Thursday.

Brooks’s husband, Charlie, her former assistant Cheryl Carter, and the British unit’s former head of security, Mark Hanna, face charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. All seven have pleaded not guilty.