London, Feb. 22: The tumultuous private life of Rebekah Brooks was exposed before a packed court on Friday as she gave emotional evidence about her failure to conceive children and her “car crash” love life.
The gist of the court proceedings was reported on Saturday but a detailed narrative of the intense exchanges sheds unusual light on a person who was once counted among the most powerful media figures in Britain.
During intense exchanges at the Old Bailey in London, Rebekah denied a six-year affair with her former News of the World deputy Andy Coulson, but admitted their “dysfunctional” relationship had become physical at times.
She detailed the anguish behind a love letter that she wrote but never sent to Coulson. However it was her “rollercoaster” relationship and inability to conceive with the former EastEnders star Ross Kemp that brought her to the verge of tears.
Rebekah, 45, was almost inaudible as she began to discuss her love life and fertility issues.
Within moments she asked the judge for a short break, grabbed a tissue from the witness stand and fought back tears as she walked quickly from the courtroom. Her husband, Charlie Brooks, who had sat in the dock alongside Coulson, consoled her outside.
Only a day earlier, Rebekah had given quiet but assured evidence about her years at the centre of Britain’s biggest tabloid operation, spent securing expensive buy-ups and mixing with powerful political figures.
The mood in Court 12 switched dramatically yesterday as the jury in the phone-hacking trial was given a glimpse into her vulnerable side. She described how she and Ross split up following their quick engagement in 1996, before reconciling towards the end of 1998 — the same year that she was first intimate with Coulson, now 46.
Rebekah became visibly distressed as the court heard how, in 2001, she and Ross had rebuilt their relationship and were discussing “taking it more seriously”, buying a house, getting married and having children.
Rebekah composed herself after the break and went on to recount undergoing fertility testing in 2001 and 2002. It was in 2003, a year after the couple married, that the relationship broke down again.
As editor of The Sun at the time, she was working long hours because of the war in Iraq and said that she stopped the fertility treatment because her life was effectively “placed on hold”. Ross was also working long hours and was sometimes away.
“I am sure if Ross was here he would say the same: our whole relationship was a bit of a rollercoaster. Sometimes it was really good and sometimes it wasn’t.” She agreed that their relationship was now amicable, adding that “he’d probably say he’s happier than he’s ever been”.
It was in 2003 that she and Coulson, to whom she had become close in 1995 after one of his journalist friends died, rekindled their physical relationship. They were intimate for two years, and also again in 2006, she said.
“It certainly complicated the friendship. I think any affair is by its very nature quite dysfunctional and I think it certainly added a complexity to what was a very close friendship.”
She said that “emotional anguish” lay behind a love letter to Coulson, later the Prime Minister’s former director of communications, which was found on her computer by police investigating allegations of phone hacking.
She said that the letter, thought to date to February 2004, and in which she described him as her best friend and expressed distress at his decision to break off their relationship, was not evidence of a six-year affair. “I seem to remember sometimes I would write things down to myself. Obviously it is a letter and I probably woke up the next morning and thought better of it.”
Apologising to the court if she was rambling, Rebekah said the letter was “my thoughts to myself” and that she had probably had a few glasses of wine.
“I do not know if anyone has been in this situation but, at a time of hurt at night after a few glasses of wine, you probably shouldn’t get on your computer.”
She went on: “As everyone now knows, my personal life has been a bit of a car crash for many years. It is probably very easy to blame work, but the hours were very long and hard and you got thrown together in an industry like that. I know it was wrong and it shouldn’t have happened but it did.”
Rebekah went on to detail how she fell in love with Charlie, 50, a racehorse trainer.
“I think it’s fair to say we knew very quickly that we wanted to be together and I told Charlie obviously about the failed fertility treatments in the past and said that if we did get together and he wanted children, I could never be the right person. We overcame that and he said he wanted to get married anyway.”
The pair discussed the “unconventional” surrogacy option with her fertility doctor, but it was a chance meeting between her mother and cousin that would lead them down that path. Rebekah said that her mother ran into her cousin, with whom she had been close at school, while shopping in Warrington, Cheshire. “My cousin asked how we were getting on, how the latest treatment was going. She said ‘I will do it’ (carry the child) and she did.” Their daughter was born in January 2012.
The Brooks and Coulson are standing trial on charges related to the phone-hacking scandal which resulted in the closure of the News of the World. All deny wrongdoing. Their trial, with four others, continues.