|Neil Wallis Denies Hacking Charges at Old Bailey|
Dismisses claims he knew that stories came from illegally recorded voicemails
The Chiswick based former deputy editor of the News of the World, Neil Wallis, has denied all knowledge of phone hacking at the newspaper at his trial at the Old Bailey.
He faces charges of conspiracy to hack voicemails and the prosecution is alleging that he was aware of the activities of Dan Evans a reporter who was convicted of phone hacking last year.
Mr Wallis, who was known as the ‘Wolfman’ at the News of the World from 2003 to 2007, told the court that he had no recollection of a meeting which took place between him Evans and James Weatherup at which he is alleged to have said that he knew Evans could ‘screw phones’.
According to the BBC, Mr. Wallis said that he only had a vague memory of the reporter from his time at the now closed tabloid and recalls him being constantly disheveled and looking as if he had a hangover.
The prosecution also questioned the role of Mr. Wallis in the publication of a story in 2004 concerning an affair between the then Home Secretary David Blunkett and a married woman. The editor of the paper at the time, Andy Coulsen, had been on holiday at the time when chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck brought the story to Mr. Wallis. When he told Mr. Coulsen about the story he was very angry because of concerns about damaging the relationship between a senior News International executive and the Home Secretary and he told Neville Thurlbeck not to follow up the story.
However, on Mr Coulsen’s return the story was revived but Mr. Wallis says that at no point was he aware the source for the story was recorded voicemails left by Mr. Blunkett on his mistress’s phone, the transcripts of which were stored in the safe at the News of the World. He told the court that the first time he saw them was when they were included in the case papers relating to the trial and that Andy Coulsen had told him the story originated from a ‘well-placed’ source. Mr. Wallis was absent from the paper when the story went to press due to his wife being unwell.
He also denied testimony by Dan Evans in which it was claimed that he was present in a meeting in 2005 in which a recording was played of voicemails which were the basis for a story they were to publish about an affair between James Bond star Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller. According to the BBC, Evans testified that Mr Wallis took him by the arm and said: "You're a company man now."
Mr. Wallis has accused the police of being vindictive in pursuing the case against him. He says that the extended period on bail cause his family a great deal of stress and led directly to the break up of his marriage and mental health problems for him, his wife and his son. He told the court that he was currently receiving treatment for depression.
The charges arise from the police inquiry Operation Pinetree which investigated the Features department of the now defunct News of the World for phone-hacking.
Following that investigation, the former NotW editor Andy Coulson was convicted and sent to prison, while former NoW editor Rebekah Brooks was found not guilty, along with retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner.
Mr. Wallis was first arrested under the main phone-hacking inquiry, Operation Weeting, in July 2011, and was left on bail for nearly two years until February 2013, when he was told he would face no further action due to a lack of evidence.
He was told last August that the Crown Prosecution Service had decided to instigate prosecutions him.
The trial continues.