The senior lawyer who vetted News of the World stories for more than 20 years has left the newspaper's publisher as the phone-hacking scandal continues to grow.
Tom Crone has stepped down as legal manager of News International, which also publishes the Sun and the Times, after 26 years at the company, a source said.
His main responsibility was to advise the News of World and the Sun on legal matters relating to editorial before and after publication.
News International declined to confirm whether he resigned or was asked to leave.
A source in the legal world close to Mr Crone described him as "an incredibly professional and very clever Fleet Street lawyer".
The source said: "Tom was very much a hands-on man when it came to the News of the World. He was always there on a Saturday.
"He would usually be the only lawyer on a Saturday handling pre-publication reading.
"Tom is very quiet. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. He can be very abrupt and dismissive of people when he thinks they are being stupid.
"He has always managed the News of the World and the Sun very closely.
"He would very regularly pick up the phone to someone and say 'Let's just settle this and get shot of it rather than incur huge legal costs'.
"That was his great art, having a very close sense of when it was sensible to fight something and when it was sensible not to fight something. On many occasions he got it absolutely right."
Mr Crone, a family man who is a keen golfer, practised as a barrister for five years and worked as an in-house lawyer for the Mirror Group before joining News International in 1985.
News International shut the News of the World on Sunday after 168 years in an attempt to stem the widening scandal over the paper's involvement in hacking the voicemail messages of celebrities, politicians, and victims of crime and terrorism.