Former News International boss Rebekah Brooks began giving evidence in her defence at the phone hacking trial today after she was formally cleared of a charge linked to a picture of Prince William dressed as a bikini-clad Bond girl at a Sandhurst party.
The 45-year-old ex-tabloid editor, who still faces charges of conspiring to hack phones, two of perverting the course of justice and one of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office, sat in the witness box at the Old Bailey wearing a white cardigan over a royal blue dress with her red hair pinned back.
She was was formally acquitted of a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office by sanctioning a payment of £4,000 for the William picture after Mr Justice Saunders told the jury that he had found there was no case to answer on that count
Brooks stood and smiled as the jury foreman recorded a not guilty verdict.
Speaking in a calm voice, Brooks briefly described her childhood and began outlining the start of her career in journalism, which she said she was inspired to pursue by her grandmother.
After confirming that she was born in Warrington, Cheshire, in 1968 and was an only child, she told the packed wood-lined courtroom: "My grandmother, who I said lived with us, she was a writer. She wrote a lot of poetry and she wrote a poetry column for a local newspaper. The idea probably stemmed from her."
She said she had "swept the floors and made the tea" when she got work experience at the local newspaper, the Warrington Guardian, at the age of 14, and then got her first full-time job in journalism in 1988, when she was around 20.
As Brooks described her early days in journalism, her husband and co-defendant Charlie Brooks sat with his left hand resting against the side of his head, smiling.
His wife detailed her rise through the ranks to the top echelons of tabloid journalism, starting on "short-lived" publication The Post where she was "bit by bit allowed to write a paragraph".
She then moved on to the News of the World's Sunday magazine, before working for the newspaper's features department and in 1995, at the age of 27, becoming deputy editor of the tabloid.
Brooks told the court that she was made aware very early on of the importance of contacts for journalists, both at college and as she worked at the News of the World's magazine, when she heard colleagues talk about "their contacts and their sources".
She described how she used her contact with PR guru Max Clifford to pass muster as deputy editor of the newspaper despite her relative inexperience and age.
Brooks said: "I kept hold of running the (features) side of things. Particularly the NotW had a very strong relationship with someone called Max Clifford who basically brokered stories and I dealt with him a lot and stories around that so by Christmas I passed my trial."
Her lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw QC made an opening statement at the start of Brooks's defence case today, saying jurors might have found the trial hard to follow so far.
He told the court that "on occasions absolutely critical information was overlooked or left out" by the prosecution.
Mr Laidlaw said: "If there is a sense of confusion about the evidence and what it is said to relate to, that would be entirely u nderstandable."
He told the jury that at the end of the trial, he would "have a lot more to say" about Brooks's treatment by the prosecution and the police.
Mr Laidlaw told the jury it was not for Brooks to give evidence to "make out her innocence", but that the prosecution must bear the burden of reaching a high standard of proof.
He said: "That may not be something that has emerged clearly or at all at this point."
Mr Laidlaw told the jury: "Although these allegations arose in the course of Mrs Brooks's employment, she is not being tried, is she, because she was the editor of a tabloid newspaper?
"Views, as we all understand, differ about the tabloid press, and the worth or otherwise of the tabloid press within the broad spectrum of the media.
"Neither is she on trial for having worked for Rupert Murdoch's company or for having worked her way up, literally from the bottom, through that organisation.
"She is not being tried for News International's strategy, for its policies, its influences, or its corporate views.
"Politics next. Neither is Mrs Brooks on trial for any political views she may hold, neither is she to be judged for the support that the newspapers she edited gave to one particular political party at one time or another."
The barrister told the jurors that the list was not exhaustive, but he wanted to show them how important it was that they remained focused and not distracted.
He added: "There is, isn't there, an awful lot which is going on in the background to this case and in its shadow?
"There are agendas as you can all see, being pursued elsewhere, so please just be careful and keep an open mind and stay focused upon what matters."
Mr Laidlaw told the jury it was important for them to see the ex-tabloid editor "as she is" and "begin the process of working out whether there is any truth in any of the allegations made against her".
Brooks told the court that a key story that she managed to secure for the tabloid was footballer Paul Gascoigne talking about domestic violence.
She had already interviewed him several times before 1994, but that year paid around £50,000 to £80,000 to secure the story about "a sensitive subject".
Brooks said: "It was the fact that I got Paul to talk to me about such a sensitive subject. It set out the ground work for me doing that time and time again with other high-profile people who were having difficult circumstances."
Asked about another major story while she was features editor at the newspaper, Brooks described securing a £100,000 deal in 1995 with prostitute Divine Brown after actor Hugh Grant was caught with her.
But she said the newspaper ended up spending far more money, as they went to huge lengths to prevent rival publications getting to the prostitute.
"There was a huge interest, and once we had found Divine Brown there was an expectation that the Mail and The Sun would not be far behind and so we asked Divine Brown if she would move from her home where she had gone back to, to a different location.
"From memory, she wanted to take quite a number of her family with her. It was quite a lot of people."
Brooks said the newspaper hired a plane to fly "very smart" Brown and members of her family to "the desert" - she thought Nevada - to stay in a resort to prevent other newspapers finding them.
"It all seems so silly now but actually it was really important," she said.
Asked by Mr Laidlaw how much the whole enterprise had cost, she said it could have amounted to as much as £250,000.
"It was probably one of the biggest expenses that I had ever dealt with. It was a lot of money," she said.
At the time her weekly spending limit was supposed to be £50,000 to £60,000, she said, and she was making decisions "on the hoof" in the middle of the night because of the time difference between the UK and the US.
"At the time, obviously, if I had done the wrong thing, in the morning, particularly my decision to fly the entire family to the desert was something I had to explain to the editor and managing editor."
There was fierce competition internally between the news and features desks at the News of the World, as well as with other News International titles, the jury heard.
"It was almost like the News of the World news desk would rather... the Mirror had the story than the features desk or The Sun. There was quite lot of competition", Brooks said.
She recalled one incident where her phone wires were cut by journalists from the news desk after the features department ran a story about a judge that had pleased the newspaper's bosses.
Brooks said there "was probably a bit of old-school misogyny" shown to her, but added: "If I'd been a bloke or a woman, the competition between the two desks was ingrained into the News of the World's history. They really didn't like each other."
Asked about any personal attacks on her, Brooks said she once found a file compiled on her "perceived mistakes or stupid stories", called "Twat 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6".
"It was a difficult world," she told the jury.
The court heard that the first occasion Brooks edited the paper was on February 11, 1996 - after the bombing by the Provisional IRA at Canary Wharf - when editor Phil Hall was on holiday.
"It was the first time I had been left in charge, so a big, serious news story like that, I was obviously on edge and wanted to do it well."
"Despite my inexperience we managed to pull it together."
She said since the bomb had gone off on the Friday, the News of the World was trying to "get behind the news and reflect the seriousness of what had happened in a News of the World way".
She said the aim was to "bring the terror to their (the readers') real lives".
Brooks said: "I think the bosses were quite nervous because they suddenly appeared in the office on a Saturday which had never been seen before.
"I think they realised that I didn't have much experience and this was a big story to get right so my boss Les Hinton came in for a few hours that morning."
Asked about former prime minister Tony Blair - who the court yesterday heard allegedly later offered to be an "unofficial adviser" to Brooks days before she was arrested in 2011 - she said she first met him and the "new Labour crew" in 1996 when she accompanied then-boyfriend Ross Kemp to an education rally in 1996.
"I went with him and that's when I met, for the first time, the New Labour team," she said, naming Mr Blair and wife Cherie, former spin doctor Alastair Campbell and partner Fiona Millar, as well as Peter Mandelson, describing them as "the original sort of New Labour crew".
Describing The Sun and News of the World's switch to support Mr Blair in 1997, she said: "The Sun had supported the Tories for a long time and they supported Tony Blair in favour of John Major very early on.
"It was a big thing."