British police arrest journalist over phone hacking

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British police investigating the phone-hacking scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World arrested a 31-year-old woman on Wednesday, reportedly a former journalist at the tabloid.

"At 06:35 hrs (0635 GMT) officers arrested the woman on suspicion of conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages," London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Media reports named her as Bethany Usher, who used to work at the News of the World and its former rival the People and is now a senior journalism lecturer at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, northeast England.

Scotland Yard said she was in custody at a police station in Northumbria, also in northeast England.

The arrest is the 17th made by officers working on Operation Weeting, the investigation into phone hacking set up in January.

Rebekah Brooks, a former top executive in Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire, and Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor and Prime Minister David Cameron's former media chief, are among those previously arrested.

The Murdoch-owned News of the World was closed in July amid a storm of phone-hacking allegations, including that a private investigator hacked the voicemail of a murdered teenage girl.

The scandal prompted the government to establish a judge-led inquiry into the ethics of the press, which started hearing witness testimony this month.

The Leveson inquiry has heard from a range of witnesses about their treatment by tabloid newspapers, including actor Hugh Grant, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, and actress Sienna Miller.

The inquiry heard on Wednesday from Alastair Campbell, media chief to former prime minister Tony Blair between 1997 and 2003.

© 2011 AFP

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