Andy Coulson, former News of the World (NoW) editor and media spokesman for prime minister David Cameron, was arrested on Friday along with another journalist as authorities responded to charges of widespread telephone-hacking and corruption at the Rupert Murdoch-owned British newspaper.
Coulson was arrested over the hacking allegations that prompted Murdoch’s News International to announce the closure of the popular Sunday newspaper, its final edition planned for July 10.
Private detectives working for the newspaper are said to have hacked into the voicemails of celebrities, a murdered schoolgirl, and grieving families of 7/7 victims and British war dead in Afghanistan. Police have identified 4,000 possible targets in in this.
Separately, police detained former NoW royal editor Clive Goodman over charges the newspaper paid police money for information — according to some reports, as much as £100,000. Goodman was jailed for four months in 2007 for telephone hacking.
The arrests came as Cameron backed calls for the resignation of former NoW editor and current head of Murdoch’s British business, Rebekah Brooks. Both Coulson and Brooks are close to Cameron.
Coulson succeeded Brooks as NoW editor in 2003 but resigned in 2007 over the hacking allegations before joining Cameron’s team.
He quit Downing Street in January this year as the hacking allegations resurfaced.
Many in the British media industry are convinced that Murdoch sacrificed the 168-year-old NoW in order to protect his wider global interests, and their anger has been directed at Brooks, who has refused to resign so far.
But that could change after Cameron said on Friday: “It has been reported that she offered her resignation. And in this situation, I would have taken it.”