A businessman accused of plotting to plant bombs in London’s legal district denied hiding a mobile phone in a chair after police arrived at his stately manor, claiming he was “using the loo”.
Jonathan Nuttall, 50, is accused of deploying his driver Michael Sode, 58, to act as a “middleman” with former Royal Marine Michael Broddle, 46, who planted the two devices at Gray’s Inn on September 14 2021.
It is alleged Nuttall was unhappy at the prospect of losing his family home, Embley Manor in Romsey, Hampshire, to pay off a £1.4 million legal settlement with the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The devices were aimed at two lawyers acting for the NCA in the case, Andrew Sutcliffe KC and Anne Jeavons whose chambers are at Gray’s Inn, the prosecution claims.
On Wednesday, Nuttall’s second day in the witness box, jurors were shown body-worn video footage of police officers carrying out a search warrant at Embley Manor on March 17 last year.
Nuttall’s wife Amanda was seen to answer the door in her dressing gown before her husband appeared at the top of the stairs smartly dressed.
Prosecutor Catherine Farrelly asked the defendant what he was doing while Mrs Nuttall was meeting the officers.
Nuttall said: “I was in the bathroom, finishing what I’m doing, getting dressed.”
Ms Farrelly said: “You appear at the top of the stairs about four minutes and 20 seconds after the officers have first made their presence known on the intercom, having left your wife in the circumstances you have described to us, to deal with those men downstairs because you were in the bathroom?”
She asked if his time upstairs had involved going into the bedroom where his second mobile phone was later found hidden inside an office chair.
The defendant denied it, saying he was in an en suite bathroom attached to his bedroom.
“So nothing to do with the fact a phone is found hidden inside an office chair?” Ms Farrelly said.
Nuttall explained he had asked his wife to let in the officers fearing they might damage the door.
“She said ‘should I go’.
“I was undressed.
“I said ‘you had better go then, otherwise they will break the door down’.
“I was getting dressed in the bathroom.
“I was using the loo, washing my hands, my teeth. I could go on. That’s what I was doing,” he said.
The prosecutor said: “You dispute that phone was in that chair so you cannot help us to how it got there?”
Nuttall replied: “Because it was not there.”
The court heard how Nuttall had the use of a Rolls-Royce and Sode was employed to drive him to and from business meetings typically held at the St Pancras Station hotel in London and celebrity chef Rick Stein’s restaurant in Barnes, south-west London.
Nuttall denied that he had confided in Sode the “various trials and tribulations concerning the NCA” saying their WhatsApp exchanges were about when he wanted to be collected.
The court heard that messages on Sode’s phone relating to September 2019 to February 2022 had been “scrambled”, indicating they were deleted.
Furthermore, the court was told that Sode had thrown his phone out of a window.
Nuttall said he could think of no reason why his driver would have done that or deleted messages between them.
Ms Farrelly asked the defendant to comment on the absence of messages relating to a period around the alleged conspiracy.
Nuttall suggested there were times that he did not require Sode’s driving services.
Earlier, the court was told of an absence of messages during national lockdowns when Nuttall was predominantly based at Embley Manor, rather than his flat in Sloane Street in west London.
The defendant also confirmed he used the encrypted app Telegram for his business in China and the Middle East on the advice of a concierge at a Hong Kong hotel as WhatsApp did not work those regions.
Nuttall, Sode, of Deptford, south-east London, and Broddle’s sons Charlie, 18, and Joshua, 20, from Hounslow, west London, deny two charges of conspiring with Michael Broddle to place an article with intent on or before September 14 2021.
The Old Bailey trial continues.