A Rebekah Brooks horse scandal has emerged as the newest odd detail of the News International phone-hacking probe, and the world is asking: Why did Scotland Yard lend her a police horse?
In 2008, Scotland Yard lent Brooks, a former Sun and News of the World editor, a horse one year after Clive Goodman, her royal editor at News of the World, was thrown in jail for phone-hacking, the Telegraph reported Tuesday.
The question that remains: why did British authorities find it appropriate to lend a retired police horse to a woman embroiled in such scandal?
Apparently the horse Rebekah Brooks was riding was borrowed was one of only 12 such horses that Scotland Yard loaned to people that year. But a Metropolitan Police spokesman claims that it routinely lends retired horses out to members of the public, according to the Telegraph.
When a police horse reaches the end of its working life, Mounted Branch officers find it a suitable retirement home. Whilst responsibility for feeding the animal and paying vet bills passes to the person entrusted to its care at its new home, the horse remains the property of the Metropolitan Police Service, a Met spokesman told the Telegraph. Retired police horses are not sold on and can be returned to the care of the MPS at any time. In 2008 a retired MPS horse was loaned to Rebekah Brooks. The horse was subsequently re-housed with a police officer in 2010.
Brooks, a devoted horse rider who the Mirror reports is out on bail after being arrested and questioned extensively by detectives last year in relation to suspected corruption and phone hacking, kept the horse for two years at her home in the Cotswolds, where she lives with her husband, former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks.
And the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch actually sent officers to Brooks' house to make sure she was good enough of a rider and that she had a place to keep the horse before allowing it to go there, according to the Telegraph.
But these revelations raise new flags about how close Brooks and the Met really are. On Monday, an inquiry revealed that a senior Met officer discussed the original phone-hacking probe with Brooks, even going so far as to touch on how far she thought the investigation should go, the Telegraph wrote.
The horse apparently went to live with a police officer in Norfolk after Brooks gave it up, the Telegraph said, and it has since died of natural causes.
It's well known by people in the horse world that the Met looks for homes for horses once they retire, Dave Wilson, Mrs. Brooks's spokesman, told the newspaper. Rebekah took on a horse and effectively acted as a foster parent for it for a year or so ... The Met horse team comes out to make sure your facilities are right and proper. It's just a way of giving a temporary home to a horse that has had a distinguished service in the Met. It went off to a retirement paddock in Norfolk once it couldn't be ridden any more.
Wilson went on to explain to the Mirror that taking on the horse is just a charitable thing Rebekah did, as she paid for its food, lodging and other expenses. Scotland Yard refused to tell the Mirror what the horse's name was.
In 2008, when Rebekah Brooks accepted the horse, she had already testified five years prior that the News of the World paid policemen, while she was its editor between 2003 and 2008, the paper wrote, adding that she was heading up News International by the time she relinquished the horse back to the Met, which was under pressure to look again at the phone-hacking scandal.
The Mirror dubbed the Rebekah Brooks horse scandal #Horsegate, and a Twitter account has already been set up by some entrepreneurial soul: @RebekahsHorse.
The Poke made a hilarious faux movie poster making fun of the scandal, dubbing the would-be film Poor Horse.
And hundreds of Twitter users offered their own takes on the Rebekah Brooks horse scandal, including @bbcHIGNFY, who tweeted the following on Tuesday: Scotland Yard loaned Rebekah Brooks a police horse for a year, before the mare was finally put out to pasture. As for the horse, who knows?