July 8, 2011
LONDON — The former editor of the British tabloid at the heart of a growing media scandal and the journalist who used to cover the royal family were arrested Friday in connection with allegations of hacking into mobile phones and bribing police to get news stories, British media reported.
Andy Coulson was editor of the News of the World when the newspaper allegedly engaged in illegal hacking of the cellphones and voice mails of the royal family, celebrities, politicians and relatives grieving from the loss of loved ones from the London terrorist bombing in 2005.
Coulson later served as a top communications official in the government and was Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman at No. 10 Downing Street until he resigned from that job in January.
Coulson has denied any knowledge of the hacking, and the top executives at the parent company, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., have described the illegal snooping as the work of a rogue reporter and a private investigator.
London’s Metropolitan Police said they had a arrested a 43-year-old man “in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking” but could not release his name until he was formally charged. British media, citing law enforcement sources, said the man arrested was Coulson.
Clive Goodman, the former News of the World royal editor, was also reported to have been arrested on Friday over “allegations of corruption.” Goodman was jailed in 2007 after he pleaded guilty to hacking into private phone messages in connection with pursuing stories about the British monarchy.
The scandal, which is roiling London’s political and media circles, began after Goodman wrote stories in 2005 about Prince William that contained details known to very few people. The articles raised alarm bells in the royal household.
On Thursday, James Murdoch announced that the News of the World would be shut down and is to publish its final issue Sunday.
At a news conference Friday morning, Cameron defended his decision to hire Coulson as his communications director even though the hacking investigation was underway.
“I had given him a second chance,” said Cameron, adding that Coulson had given him assurances that he had nothing to do with the hacking before he was hired by the government. “The second chance didn’t work, he had to resign all over again.”
Cameron described Coulson as a friend, and admitted that politicians such as himself may have become too “cozy” with the press.
The prime minister said there would be a full investigation into the phone hacking and police bribery that led to the collapse of the News of the World after 168 years of publishing salacious gossip as well as solid scoops.
Read more at The Washington Post.