The phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire has yielded another big fish.
British police have arrested Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired former chief executive of News International, on suspicions that she was directly or indirectly involved with illegal phone-hacking and bribery during her tenure as head of the now-defunct News of the World (NOTW) tabloid.
Under enormous pressure from various quarters, she resigned from her position at News International on Friday, although her bosses Rupert and James Murdoch expressed their undying support for her.
According to a spokesman for Brooks, she was notified on Friday (the date of her resignation) that she would be arrested.
Brooks edited NOTW between 2000 and 2003 – at that time, perhaps the most egregious phone-hacking incident occurred, that of schoolgirl Milly Dowler who was murdered.
BBC’s business editor Robert Peston commented: It's certainly the most extraordinary development. Rebekah Brooks is incredibly close to the most powerful people in the UK -- the current prime minister, the previous prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. More or less every senior person of influence within Britain.
Peston indicated that Brooks’ arrest might complicate her planned appearance before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Tuesday, where she was expected to answer queries from MPs about the scandal.
I would assume having been arrested it's now almost impossible for her to appear. It's very difficult for MPs to ask her questions that wouldn't be seen to be impinging on the police investigation, he said.
Adrian Sanders, a Liberal Democrat MP, complained about the timing of the arrest.
In whose interest was it for this arrest to take place before Tuesday? Because if it does impede what we can ask, that's not going to go down well with my fellow committee members,” he said.
Quite why now, just a few hours before our select committee meets, an arrangement has been made for an arrest. A lot of people are going to think this is very, very odd. If this [arrest] is designed to take the spotlight off the police at the same time giving a shield to Rebekah Brooks, that's a very serious matter indeed. We don't know how much this is going to impede our questioning until we've been able to sit down and talk it through with the parliamentary counsel.
Similarly, Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is allegedly himself a phone-hacking victim, also questioned the arrest.
It may be that the police are wanting to protect evidence so that... they can lead to successful prosecutions, but there will be plenty of people who are saying, right, this is an opportunity for her to get out of saying things to the culture committee,” he stated.
In the end, of course, the police investigation is the most important part of what we've been trying to seek for a long time, so we do get to the bottom of the criminality at the News of the World.
Meanwhile, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, and son James, chairman of News International, will appear before MPs this week.
Brooks, 43, remains in custody at a London police station.
She is now the tenth person arrested in connection with this gathering scandal.