British PM's ex-aide arrested over tabloid scandal
Police arrested David Cameron's ex-media chief and a former royal reporter over Britain's tabloid phone hacking row Friday as the prime minister promised urgent inquiries into the spiralling scandal.
Cameron looked rattled during the toughest press conference of his year in power, but he defended his decision to hire Andy Coulson, the former editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, which is to shut this weekend.
He admitted the scandal went to the heart of the British establishment, saying: "The truth is, we have all been in this together -- the press, politicians and leaders of all parties, and yes, that includes me."
Cameron said he gave Coulson a "second chance" after he quit the News of the World in 2007 when two people were jailed over hacking. Coulson then resigned from Cameron's Downing Street office in January, citing pressure over the claims.
"The decision to hire him was mine and mine alone, and I take full responsibility for it," Cameron said, adding however that Coulson "became a friend and is a friend".
Murdoch caused astonishment on Thursday when he killed off the 168-year-old News of the World, Britain's biggest selling Sunday paper, amid claims that it hacked the voicemails of a murdered girl and the families of dead soldiers.
Cameron announced that he would set up a public inquiry led by a judge into the furore around the paper, as well as a second inquiry into the way in which the British press is regulated.
"These are the questions that need answering: Why did the first police investigation fail so abysmally? What exactly was going on at the News of the World? And what was going on at other newspapers?" he said.
Minutes after the prime minister spoke, London's Metropolitan Police arrested the 43-year-old Coulson by appointment at a South London police station "in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking".
The corruption allegations refer to alleged improper payments to police officers by the paper when Coulson was editor of Britain's biggest-selling Sunday newspaper from 2003 to 2007.
He remained in custody late Friday.
Police said they had also on Friday re-arrested Clive Goodman, the News of the World's former royal editor, one of the two men who was jailed in 2007 for hacking the voicemails of Princes William and Harry.
Goodman, 53, was apprehended at his house in Surrey, south of London, on corruption charges.
Police said they had also raided the offices of another British tabloid, the Daily Star Sunday, where Goodman had worked as a freelance reporter over the past year.
In a statement, the paper said officers had requested computer material linked to Goodman "to cross-check it with his activities in his News of the World role", adding that there was no suggestion he had acted improperly at the Daily Star Sunday.
The shock closure of the News of the World was widely seen as a way to quell the scandal and save the bid by his News Corp. for control of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, on which the British government is due to decide.
Shares in BSkyB plunged 3.94 percent to 780.5 pence in late morning deals Friday, topping the fallers board on the FTSE 100 index.
It was also seen as a way of protecting Rebekah Brooks, the embattled head of Murdoch's British newspaper wing, News International, who was editor of the News of the World from 2000 to 2003, when some of the allegations also date from.
Cameron said of reports she had offered her resignation: "In this situation, I would have taken it."
Brooks however told the 200 sacked staff at the News of the World office on Friday that she felt "betrayed" and that she would try to find them jobs across the company, Sky News reported.
The last edition of the unashamedly sensationalist tabloid will be on Sunday, ending a long history of publishing sex scandals but also hard-hitting investigations including into recent Pakistani cricket match-fixing claims.
British newspapers on Friday mourned the passing of their scandal-hit comrade.
The Daily Mail ran with the headline "The Paper that Died of Shame", and bemoaned the "downfall of a fine British institution" while The Daily Telegraph opted for "Goodbye, cruel World".
Murdoch will reportedly replace it with a Sunday edition of The Sun, his daily tabloid, which is Britain's biggest selling newspaper.
© 2011 AFP