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Phones used for hacking voicemails were thrown into the Thames, according to a former reporter at the Sunday Mirror.
Dan Evans says he disposed of 10 pay-as-you-go handsets when he was working at the paper's offices near the river.
He says when he moved to the News of the World, the phones were smashed up and binned, because the offices in Wapping were too far away from the river.
Evans is giving evidence at the phone hacking trial, where seven people deny all the charges.
Defence lawyer Timothy Langdale QC said divers have since searched the stretch of river where he said he threw the phones.
Evans said he needed a safe phone for investigative work "dealing with hitmen, people stealing dodgy stuff - serious investigations - people who did not think in terms of 'I will go to my lawyer', more 'I will stick you in a van'."
Asked by Mr Langdale how many hitmen he knew, Evans said: "One."
He said it was "crass stupidity" when he was caught out not using a safe phone.