'Leak of Diana suicide bid story caused tabloid staff to fall out'

Stuart Kuttner has been charged with conspiring to hack phones. Clive Goodman is on trial for allegedly paying public officials to obtain royal telephone directories.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘Leak of Diana suicide bid story caused News of the World staff to fall out'” was written by Lisa O’Carroll, for theguardian.com on Thursday 10th April 2014 13.43 UTC

A former News of the World boss was accused of leaking a rumour about a suicide attempt by Princess Diana to a rival newspaper leading to a row with the paper’s royal reporter, the Old Bailey has heard.

Counsel for Clive Goodman put it to Stuart Kuttner, the NoW’s former managing editor, that the 1992 row soured relations between the two and was the reason why Kuttner gave evidence which was not “remotely complimentary” about the former royal editor in testimony earlier this week.

“You bear some animosity towards Mr Goodman, don’t you?” said David Spens, QC. “You had a difficult relationship with him from 1992, didn’t you?”

Kuttner said he did not bear any animosity towards Goodman but did say that “his performance in latter years was disappointing”.

Spens put it to him that they clashed after Kuttner asked Goodman to “assist” a friend, a journalist called Nick Davies, “providing background and stories” for a biography he was doing on Princess Diana which was designed to “match” one being written by Andrew Morton.

“One of the rumours about the forthcoming Morton book was that it would contain a suicide bid by Princess Diana”.

“I don’t remember that,” said Kuttner.

“You asked him about it. I’m going to suggest that he said nothing and you persisted with asking him for details with the result that he said it would most likely be the sort of story which would be impossible to prove.”

“I don’t remember. None of that rings any kind of bells, sir, No,” said Kuttner.

“That very story you knew was not true, but made up as an example of what might be in Mr Morton’s book, actually appeared as fact in a feature in a rival newspaper, ” said Spens referring to an article by Davies.

Kuttner said he didn’t remember that.

“Mr Goodman was furious with you and had a row with you that you had leaked what he had told you to Nick Davies,” said Spens.

Kuttner replied: “If your suggestion is an accusation that I leaked information, it is completely and utterly false. I did not then or at any time leak information.”

In his testimony on Wednesday, the jury heard repeated criticism of Goodman’s performance and had heard Kuttner describe him as “an enigma” who didn’t like going out of the office for stories.

Goodman has not been in court because of ill health, but has been shown a transcript of proceedings to allow him defend himself.

Spens opened his cross examination by putting it to Kuttner that he had “not a good word to say” about Goodman and that he had said nothing “remotely complimentary” in his evidence over the past three days. “I disagree,” said Kuttner, denying that was the case.

Spens reminded Kuttner that earlier this week he had told jurors that he was unaware that sources were “paid in false names”. He put it to Kuttner that, in fact, the “practice was widespread” at the News of the World since he joined at 1986. Kuttner replied: “That’s not so.”

Spens then put it to Kuttner that the deputy editor of the News of the World, Neil Wallis, was called “Wolfman because he was known for his aggressive, hard approach to those who was junior to him.”

Kuttner said: “He was very focused, very direct and sometimes quite tough.”

“He was a bully wasn’t he?” Spens asked. Kuttner replied: “Not in my experience, no.”

“He would shout at people, wouldn’t he?”

“Occasionally, yes. Quite a lot of shouting goes on in newsrooms.”

“But he in particular?”

“Perhaps more than most.”

Spens described a “secret room”, which the jury has previously heard of, where the paper’s big exclusives would be sub-edited and produced to prevent leaks.

“Neil Wallis shouted so loud when he was in there, everyone in the office could hear about the secret stories that were being talked about in the room,” Spens said. He added that the room had to be “soundproofed” as a result.

Kuttner said he did not know anything about the room being soundproofed or Wallis shouting in the secret room.

Kuttner has been charged with conspiring to hack phones, which he denies and Goodman, who has already been convicted in 2007 of a hacking-related offence, is on trial for allegedly paying public officials to obtain royal telephone directories.

The trial continues

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