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British police arrest former Murdoch executive in hacking inquiry

LONDON — Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, the British newspaper division of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of obstruction of justice, the New York Times reported, citing an unnamed person with knowledge of the arrest.

Her husband, Charlie, a friend of Prime Minister David Cameron from their days at Eton three decades ago, also was arrested, the person said.

Police said in a statement that six people had been arrested as part of Operation Weeting, the criminal investigation into phone hacking and other illegal activities at News of the World and other newspapers. None has yet been formally charged with crimes; in the British system, charges can be filed months after an arrest, and sometimes not at all.

Following standard procedure, the police statement did not identify those arrested. But a person with knowledge of the arrests said that besides Rebekah Brooks and her husband, they included Mark Hanna, the head of security for News International.

The statement said the six were interrogated on suspicion of "conspiracy to pervert the course of justice," the British equivalent of obstruction of justice. This could relate to activities like destroying emails, computers and other evidence.

Two former editorial staff members at News International said they had heard from inside the company that the questioning was related to emails that were deleted before police widened their phone hacking investigation last year.

A second Scotland Yard statement, issued more than 13 hours after the arrests, said five of the six suspects had been released on bail but were required to return for further questioning in April. The statement said the sixth suspect, a male, remained "in custody at a central London police station" but did not explain why.

From the sparse details in the statement, which identified those released by their ages and where they had been questioned, it was clear that the Brookses were among them.

Rebekah Brooks, 43, is a confidante of Murdoch and an erstwhile friend of Cameron, who attended her wedding to Charlie Brooks in 2009. She was the editor of the now-defunct News of the World and the editor of the Sun, another Murdoch-owned tabloid, before being named chief executive of News International. Before the arrest Tuesday, she had already been arrested last summer, on suspicion of phone hacking and illegally paying police.

British police arrest former Murdoch executive in hacking inquiry 03/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 10:48pm]
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