With the phone hacking scandal refusing to die down, the embattled head of Rupert Murdoch’s News International media group, Rebekah Brooks — dubbed by many as the media baron’s “fifth daughter” - resigned on Friday.
The resignation came as the firestorm spread to the US, where an FBI probe is underway, and Murdoch, 80, announced that News International would run ads in major British newspapers on Saturday to “apologise for what has happened”.
Brooks’ departure comes as a fresh blow to Murdoch, after he was forced to shut down his 168-year-old News of the World tabloid and scrap a buy-out of pay-TV giant BSkyB.
Brooks was editor of News of the World from 2000-2003, when it allegedly hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and deleted some of the voicemail in order to access more, leading her family to mistakenly believe she may be alive. The tabloid is also accused of hacking into the voicemails of families of the 7/7 terror victims and Britain’s wardead.
“As chief executive of the company, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I want to reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place,” the flame-haired 43-year-old said in an email to staff on Friday.
She will be replaced by New Zealander Tom Mockridge, chief executive of Murdoch-owned satellite broadcaster Sky Italia.
In the US, the FBI said News Corp employees may have targeted the phone records of 9/11 victims. “We are looking into it,” a spokeswoman said.
Brooks was a trailblazer in Britain’s male-dominated media world, rising from a secretary at News of The World to editor of The Sun, another tabloid from the Murdoch stable.
The scandal has led to nine arrests so far. (With agency inputs)