A former reporter at the News of the World has told how he hacked phones a thousand times after he was handed a list of celebrity numbers when he joined the paper in 2005, the Old Bailey has heard.
Dan Evans, who has pleaded guilty to intercepting voice messages at the News of the World, also told the phone-hacking trial on Monday about the “kerching moment” when he met NoW editor Andy Coulson and mentioned how he had hacked phones at the Sunday Mirror in the past.
He said: “I told him about my background, the sort of stories I had been doing. Almost the sort of stuff I had been through before.”
Following prompting by the other News of the World journalist at the meeting Evans said he told Coulson: “I got on to voicemails and interception and I told him I had a lot of commercially sensitive data in my head and how things worked at the Sunday Mirror and I could bring him big exclusive stories cheaply which was the kerching moment. Bring exclusive stories cheaply equals job.”
Evans said that at the News of the World he was given cash to buy pay-as-you-go phones that were nicknamed “burners”. These, he explained, were phones used for “illicit activities” and would be destroyed or “burned” after two to three months.
Asked how often he hacked between his start date on the paper in January 2005 and the arrest of the paper’s then royal editor, Clive Goodman, for hacking-related offences in August 2006, Evans replied: “Probably most days, there might have been the odd lull.”
Evans has also pleaded guilty to hacking phones while at the Sunday Mirror.
He is the first journalist to plead guilty to hacking phones while working for a paper other than the News of the World.
The journalist told the jury that he started hacking phones after he was made a staff reporter at the Sunday Mirror and carried out this activity for about “a year and a half”.
Evans, who has pleaded guilty to hacking phones at the News of the World up to 2010, described how “there was an explicit lockdown in the dark arts” following Goodman’s arrest and there had been a gap of “years and years” before he started again.
He said he stopped using the burner phones and just starting using the company phones. “It was just easier. The culture there was pretty blasé about this kind of thing bizarrely.”
When Evans started at the News of the World, his new boss handed him a list of hundreds of celebrity numbers including those of Simon Cowell, Cilla Black and Zoe Ball.
Evans said he was given the numbers “because he wanted me to hack the interesting names on it”.
He had “a crack” at getting into around 100 of them, but with repeat calls to voicemails included, he probably hacked phones “1,000 [times] plus, more”.
Evans was also given cash to buy “burner” phones.
He explained: “They were called burner phones because after a while I’d burn them.”
Evans told how he learned the practice of “pretext blagging”, which involved ringing a mobile phone operator or another company and impersonating a staff member from credit control or a similar department.
He told the jury that “pretty much any private data” was available “on demand” at the News of the World including mobile phone numbers, mobile phone bills, credit card numbers, medical records and tax records.
Evans explained how he would ring the voicemail numbers on one phone and then count to three and ring it again on another phone to try and “trick” the target handset into going onto voicemail without alerting the owner.
He said he had learned some hacking etiquette at the Sunday Mirror where he was told “don’t leave footprints”. This meant he would never listen to messages that had not been played by the owner, but he would return later to pick them up.
Dan Evans moved to the News of the World from the Sunday Mirror in 2005. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters
Earlier, Evans described a phone-hacking target list at the Sunday Mirror as containing “lists of celebrities’ voicemail pin numbers” and “celebrity agents [voicemail numbers] where you would pick up voicemails left by them”.
It was updated regularly by him as pin codes got changed or new celebrities appeared on the “radar”.
He described how, at the Sunday Mirror, he had been handed “pages of famous people’s numbers” and told: “This is your job. You have to hack and crack the voicemail pincodes of all these people.”
He said his “general day-to-day life changed” after that. Evans said he was successful at the hacking and he felt he “ended up forsaking the stuff I really enjoyed”, which was investigative journalism.
Evans, who was a news reporter, has also pleaded guilty to two other charges, the jury in the hacking trial has been told – a conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and providing a false witness statement in relation to proceedings taken against him by the interior designer Kelly Hoppen.
The jury was told he entered his plea in September last year but for legal reasons this could not be reported at the time.
The Sunday Mirror charge related covers the period between 28 February 2003 and 1 January 2005 while the News of the World charge relates to April 2004 and 1 June 2010.
Evans is the fifth person to have pleaded guilty in relation to hacking at the News of the World.
The jury heard at the start of the trial in October that journalists Weatherup, Neville Thurlbeck, Greg Miskiw and Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator and the paper’s specialist hacker, have already pleaded guilty to intercepting voicemails.
The trial continues.