Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, the two biggest names in the ongoing trial over phone hacking, had an affair for at least six years, the jury in the trial was told on Thursday. The revelation immediately sent the British media world into a frenzy, lending an appropriately scandalous flavor to a trial that is all about tabloid scandals.
The affair reportedly spanned from 1998 to 2004, starting before and ending after Brooks' tenure as editor of News of the World. Rumors of the relationship have been running rampant for months, but nothing had been confirmed until Thursday.
Brooks and Coulson—who succeeded Brooks as editor in 2003 and later became the communications chief at Downing Street—are on trial for charges related to phone hacking and illegal payments to public officials. The BBC reported that prosecutor Andrew Edis told jurors , "What Mr. Coulson knew, Mrs. Brooks knew too." He added that he was disclosing details of the affair because both Brooks and Coulson have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to hack phones.
"When people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is how well did they know each other?" he said. "How much did they trust each other? And the fact that they were in this relationship which was a secret means that they trusted each other quite a lot with at least that secret and that's why we are telling you about it."
Investigators apparently learned of the affair from a letter Brooks sent to Coulson in 2004, after he had seemingly tried to end their secret relationship.
"The fact is you are my best my friend," the letter read in part. "I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you. We laugh and cry together. In fact, without our relationship in my life I'm really not sure I will cope."
At the time, both Brooks and Coulson were married to other people. Brooks has since remarried; her current husband, Charlie, is on trial with her for allegedly attempting to impede the investigation into her role in the phone hacking scandal.