By Martin Hickman
The pizza at the centre of an alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie was probably a Large Italian Supreme with an extra portion of garlic bread, the Old Bailey heard today.
A Pizza Hut manager, Will Smith, told the phone hacking trial that an order placed at 9.06pm at the chain’s Fulham Road delivery branch was originally for a Small Italian Supreme.
But he added that records showed that the order was increase to a large pizza with garlic bread, possibly because the customer noticed – or a member of staff pointed out – a £9.99 offer.
The pizza consumed by Mr Brooks and his friend Chris Palmer on Sunday 17 July 2011 is an issue in the case because it was delivered to them by a News International-contracted security guard along with two of Mr Brooks’s bags which had been kept away from the police.
Mr Brooks’s wife Rebekah, NI’s former chief executive, was under arrest at Lewisham police station for suspected phone hacking that day when the bags were stashed by bins below the Brooks’s flat at Chelsea Harbour, removed, then – after a police search of the flat – returned along with pizza.
The prosecution has claimed the pizza ordered by Mr Brooks that evening was “cover” for the return of the bags, which were again placed behind the bins, where they stayed until the following morning when they were found by a cleaner and handed to the police.
Mr Brooks has told the court that he made a rash decision to hide the bags from the police because he feared detectives would leak the existence of some pornography and that he wanted some pizza as “blotting paper” to soak up the six bottles of wine he and Mr Palmer knocked back that evening waiting for Mrs Brooks to be released.
On Thursday last week, NI’s security chief, Mark Hanna, who told the guard to get the pizza after speaking to Mr Brooks – was asked by Judge John Saunders whether Mr Brooks had specified what type of pizza he wanted.
He had not, Mr Hanna said, so he told the guard to pick up a margarita.
Taking the stand, Mr Smith, “restaurant excellence analyst” at Pizza Hut, said that Order 117 that day at Pizza Huts branch at 654B Fulham Road (“Fulham 7523”) had been placed at 9.06pm and cooked by 9.17pm.
The jury was shown a CCTV picture of the pizza being collected, by a man whose identity was not disclosed.
Andrew Edis QC, for the Crown, asked whether the Fulham Road branch specialised in delivery -“or you come over and get it yourself?”, to which Mr Smith replied: “Correct.”
Referring to the man on CCTV, Mr Edis asked: “How many pizzas did he take out with him?”
Mr Smith replied: “One pizza.”
Mr Brooks, Mrs Brooks, who had resigned as NI’s chief executive a week before the alleged plot, and Mr Hanna deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice. The six month-long case is due to resume tomorrow.