THE NS PROFILE: REBEKAH BROOKS
The TV drama screenwriter, author and freelance journalist Peter Jukes, who live-tweeted all 138 days of the phone-hacking trial, considers the rise and fall of Rebekah Brooks and what her career tells us about power. For eight months, Jukes looked on as Brooks maintained extraordinary composure in the witness box. By the end of the trial, he notes, “it felt as if the whole courtroom had become her friend”.
However, those who worked with Brooks saw a very different side to her character. A senior Westminster insider tells Jukes: “If you weren’t useful to her, she was an utterly ruthless and tyrannical enemy.” And a former agency photographer, Gary Wolens, who worked for the News of the World in the 1990s, describes her as the most “unpleasant” journalist he has ever worked with:
“She was a bit of a bugger,” he says: “in fact, a nightmare on all occasions.” She once told Wolens to meet a male News of the World reporter to get incriminating pictures of an England footballer. They managed to infiltrate a private party at a pub in Billericay where strippers appeared and engaged in sex acts with the partygoers. But at the crowded, raucous lock-in, there was no way he could get out his camera without putting himself in danger. When Wolens finally escaped from the function room at 1am to update Brooks, she hit the roof. “She called me a ‘lying c**t’,” he says. “She told me I’d never work for the News of the World again.” However, the Sunday tabloid ran an exclusive the next day with him and the reporter as witnesses. “I’ve worked with dozens of picture editors, journalists and editors since,” Wolens says, “but none of them was ever as unpleasant as Rebekah.
”What will Rebekah Brooks do next? Jukes suggests that Murdoch, “hemmed in by lawyers and other lawsuits, and not in such great health”, may not even have the ability to reinstate Brooks in high-level management. But Jukes struggles to imagine her living in retirement and obscurity:
It’s hard to imagine the woman I saw day after day at the Old Bailey settling down as a housewife in rural Oxfordshire at the age of 46. She has spent most of her adult life in the media, at the centre of political events and close to prominent people; and although the past eight months were stressful for her, you could also see she enjoyed telling her story. A life of rural obscurity would bore her. Richard Bean’s new play Great Britain, at the National Theatre in London, which is loosely based on the events at News Corp, finishes with its protagonist hosting her own Oprah Winfrey-style chat show on American television. But although that might have suited Piers Morgan, Brooks has never been naturally confrontational.