Former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks was arrested overnight with five other people — including her husband Charlie Brooks — on allegations of suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in the phone hacking scandal.

Police are investigating claims of a plot to cover up the extent of voice mail hacking at the tabloid that supposedly began after Operation Weeting was launched by police a year ago.

News International “has faced growing claims that it sought to destroy material, including millions of emails, at a time when it was increasingly beset by allegations and lawsuits related to phone hacking by the NOTW,” report Cahal Milmo and Martin Hickman in The Independent. “Court documents revealed last month show that the company drew up a policy in November 2009 to “eliminate in a consistent manner” emails “that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation”.

Rebekah, Charlie and three others were released on bail, while one suspect remains in custody. Two current News International employees were arrested, including Head of Security Mark Hanna.

Brooks has been arrested before, but her arrival at the police station for an appointment the day after her resignation as a News International executive last year was a far different affair from yesterday’s dawn police raid on her home.

“No such courtesies were shown to the Yard’s targets as they were unceremoniously roused from their beds and teams of officers began searches of their homes before they were taken for questioning across south east England and London,” reports The Independent. “Mrs Brooks and her husband, whose daughter was born in January after a surrogate pregnancy, were taken to separate police stations after being arrested at their farmhouse in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.”

Racehorse trainer Charlie is a close friend of UK Prime Minister David Cameron (the two went to school together). Last week Cameron’s office admitted that the PM had ridden the retired police horse given to Rebekah Brooks by Metropolitan Police involved in the original NotW phone hacking investigation. The Daily Mail called the arrests “hugely embarrassing” for Cameron, due to his personal connection to the Brooks.

In a column for The Independent published yesterday, Charlie Brooks wrote that “the happiest moment of my year is about three hours before the first race at Cheltenham on Tuesday; queuing behind Alan Brazil for my, but not his, first pint of Guinness of the meeting.”

No word on whether Brooks made the Cheltenham races today.

Peter Fray

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