Rebekah Brooks (pictured) and her former racehorse trainer husband Charlie have been arrested as part of Scotland Yard’s Operation Weeting probe into phone hacking – the second time for Rebekah, this time on suspicion of ‘perverting the course of justice.’ Today is the first day of National Hunt racing’s Cheltenham Festival, which the horsey couple were no doubt planning to attend.
So instead of a few glasses of champagne and a flutter Brooks, who resigned as CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s News International last year, now faces another grilling from the cops. At some stage they may also decide to question her as part of Operation Elveden, an investigation into illegal payments to public servants. Brooks accidentally spilled the beans on payments to police in the very early days of the phone hacking scandal when she admitted to a Parliamentary inquiry it went on, despite the determined efforts of former NoW editor (and David Cameron’s former PR man) Andy Coulson to shut her up.
Intriguingly the police (in that mysteriously opaque way of theirs) also announced today that they had arrested a 38-year old man, leading some to speculate this might be Brooks’s old boss, former News International chairman James Murdoch.
Astonishingly the police chose to ignore Brooks’s remarks about paying police (or maybe not so astonishingly when you think about it) in much the same way that former assistant commissioner John Yates and others chose to believe that phone hacking was confined to former NoW royal correspondent Clive Goodman and the paper’s tame private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who were both jailed.
So Brooks is deep in the mire although it’s worth bearing in mind that none of the dozens of hacks and others arrested so far in both inquiries have been charged. Isn’t it about time the police got on with it? Or are they deliberately piling on the pressure in the hope that one of those charged will break ranks and confess?
It’s also to be hoped that the arrest of horse-loving Rebekah (she borrowed a former police horse in the days when she was on rather better terms with the Met) and Charlie wasn’t deliberately timed for the start of Cheltenham to provide the Yard with a bit more publicity (most of which, of course, has been bad).
But the fallout from these inquiries is spattering mud over everyone. Charlie Brooks is an old Eton chum of UK PM Cameron, currently trying to burnish his image with a visit to the US to see president Obama. Which travelling hack will be brave enough to question him in the White House about his inconvenient choice of friends (and employees)? It’ll be a battle between the BBC’s Nick Robinson and Sky’s Adam Boulton.