Brooks 'agreed to buy William snap'

Blackpool Citizen: Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks at the Old Bailey. Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks at the Old Bailey.

Former News International executive Rebekah Brooks sanctioned a payment of £4,000 to a public official for a picture of Prince William dressed as a Bond girl in a bikini at a Sandhurst party, a jury has heard.

The Old Bailey heard that Brooks, then editor of the Sun and known as Rebekah Wade, was asked for her opinion on paying a member of the armed forces for the story.

Less than 10 minutes after she was sent an email by a Sun news editor saying the military contact who was offering the picture wanted £4,000, she responded by saying "OK", the jury heard.

It led to a page seven exclusive in The Sun in September 2006 with the headline "Willy in a Bikini" together with a mocked-up picture of the prince wearing a green swimsuit and Hawaiian-style flowers.

The article claimed that "Prince William caused a stir at a Sandhurst 007 bash by dressing as a Bond Girl" and said his girlfriend Kate Middleton dressed in a wetsuit.

The court heard that a payment dated June 16 2006 and headed "Prince William wearing a bikini exclusive" for the amount of £4,000, to be collected by the wife of the member of the armed forces, was made at a Thomas Cook branch in Slough, Berkshire.

The Sun reporter who was working on the story told his superior in the email later forwarded to Brooks that the picture had come via his "best contact at Sandhurst".

He claimed that although £4,000 "sounds like a lot", it would "open the door for future exclusives and info", the jury heard.

"I'm worried if we don't meet his demands, this opportunity will pass," he said.

The court heard that the email sent by the reporter to the Sun news editor on June 15 2006 referred to his contact brokering the deal to hand over the picture, which was in the possession of William's platoon commander.

The reporter wrote: "He (the contact) assures me this is not the way we would normally operate but we will not be let down.

"Indeed I already have the guy with the picture over a barrel because I know his identity."

Police initially believed the platoon commander to be Major Alexis Roberts, who was acting as William's superior at the military academy when the story broke.

But after further investigation, officers working under the Operation Elveden inquiry into corrupt payments realised that another man, Alex McKay, was the Prince's platoon commander at the time the picture was taken.

Maj Roberts, who was described as "extremely close" to William, was killed while on duty in Afghanistan, the court heard.

In his email, the Sun reporter made reference to the platoon commander needing to pay for a course that his wife was going to attend.

But after interviewing Maj Roberts's widow, they concluded this could not be referring to her or her husband as she was not due to attend a course and was heavily pregnant at the time.

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, representing Brooks, asked Operation Elveden investigator Detective Inspector David Kennett whether police had considered the possibility that there was a third, unidentified person involved in the deal.

"I certainly didn't read it like that," Mr Kennett said.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC asked the officer if the Army offered a "facility" for Mr McKay to return to be interviewed about his possible involvement.

Mr Kennett replied: "I have been informed that the Army will not post a soldier back into what is called jeopardy."

He also told the court that some 60 officers are working on Elveden.

Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies two counts of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office - one between January 1 2004, and January 31 2012, and the other between February 9 2006 and October 16 2008 - linked to the alleged inappropriate payments to public officials.

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