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Man accused of stealing MP’s phone tells court Sun journalist offered to pay £10,000 if it led to a story

A man standing trial accused of stealing a Labour MP’s mobile phone told a court today that a Sun journalist offered to pay him £10,000 if the text messages on it led to a story.

Michael Ankers, who claims to have found Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh’s Blackberry on a train, testified that when he called The Sun’s newsdesk they arranged for him to meet with reporter Nick Parker. When shown a selection of the text messages the phone contained, Parker, called his office then signed a conditional contract for the £10,000, the court was told. Ankers was then taken to a London hotel and given food and wine while the journalist spent six hours transcribing the phone’s contents.

The court had earlier heard that the phone had been stolen from the MPs car in the middle of the 2010 Labour leadership election.

The jury were then shown an email from Parker to colleagues at The Sun listing texts found on the phone. In one a fellow Labour MP comments on the leadership contest by saying: “I’ll shoot myself if Ed wins”. In another text another Labour MP mentions that they are getting calls about voting in the shadow cabinet elections to which McDonagh replies: “I’d hold out for hard cash, x.”

The defendant told the court that Parker took the phone home that night but then called him in the morning and said he had been: “speaking to our lawyers,” and that it had been decided to give the phone to the police. Ankers said he met Parker, who drove him to a local police station where he handed it in. He heard nothing more about the incident until being arrested two years later.

Also on trial alongside Parker and Ankers is former prison officer Lee Brockhurst who testified yesterday that he received hundreds of pounds in payments from The Sun reporter for stories from inside HMP Swaleside, including information about drug and mobile phone discoveries inside the jail.

Brockhurst told the court that the money would be sent to him in cash via recorded delivery so as to avoid his name being discovered. He also admitted to regularly accessing the prison computer system to gain background information on stories, including one for the Sunday People about the imprisoned brother of singer Cheryl Cole.

All three of the defendants deny the charges. The trial continues.

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