Ex-News of the World editor paid $8,200 for photo of Prince William in bikini, court hears

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in London, on Nov 18, 2013. Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper business, authorised an illegal £4,000 (S$8,200) payment
Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in London, on Nov 18, 2013. Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper business, authorised an illegal £4,000 (S$8,200) payment for a picture of Prince William dressed as a "James Bond girl" and wearing a bikini, a London court was told on Thursday, Dec 5, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper business, authorised an illegal £4,000 (S$8,200) payment for a picture of Prince William dressed as a "James Bond girl" and wearing a bikini, a London court was told on Thursday.

Brooks, the former editor of Murdoch's News of the World and Sun newspapers, is on trial accused of an array of offences including conspiracy to hack phones and conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. She denies all offences.

Prosecutor Rebecca Chalkley told the Old Bailey that Brooks had approved a payment in June 2006 to a soldier at Sandhurst military academy for a picture of the Prince attending a James Bond-themed party wearing a bikini and a Hawaiian shirt.

Prince William trained at Sandhurst from 2005 before graduating as an army officer in December 2006.

The court heard a journalist at the Sun emailed a senior colleague asking for approval for the £4,000 payment "to his best contact" at Sandhurst who had obtained the picture from another soldier based there.

The e-mail message was forwarded to Brooks, then Sun editor, who responded "OK", Ms Chalkley told the jury.

The story appeared in the paper under the headline "Willy in a bikini!" and added that William's then girlfriend and now wife had attended the party in a wetsuit. The picture of the Prince was not used and instead a mock-up of William's face above a man's body in a bikini accompanied the report.

A cash payment for the story was then paid through the Thomas Cook travel agency and collected by the soldier's wife, the court heard.

The jury were told other payments were made to the soldier by the Sun, including £1,000 pounds for a story about an army instructor who trained Prince Harry and who was accused of killing a police officer.

However, Brooks's lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw said the Prince William story was the only occasion where there was evidence his client had given approval for such payments.

Brooks, who ran News Corp's British newspaper arm until 2011, is on trial with seven others. The case is expected to last until April next year.