Police briefed Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, about their failed phone-hacking investigation within weeks of the arrest of the News of the World's royal editor, Clive Goodman, and private detective Glenn Mulcaire in 2006, the public learnt yesterday.
An internal email disclosed by the Leveson Inquiry showed that Ms Brooks had received detailed inside information about the limited nature of Operation Caryatid – which was heavily criticised for prosecuting only two NOTW staff despite evidence of the involvement of many – a month after the arrests on 8 August 2006.
Brian Paddick, the former Met Police chief who was hacked by the NOTW, suggested the inside information had allowed Rupert Murdoch's newspaper group, News International, to avoid a police search of its Wapping headquarters.
An email was sent by Tom Crone, the NOTW's head of legal, to the paper's editor, Andy Coulson, later David Cameron's director of communications, on 15 September 2006, headed "strictly private and confidential".
Referring to Ms Brooks's apparently thorough understanding of the progress of the inquiry, Mr Crone told Mr Coulson she had been told that detectives were confident Goodman and Mulcaire were "bang to rights" but that the police would only widen the case to include other NOTW employees if they found "direct evidence" of wrongdoing. Beginning the memo "Here is what Rebekah told me about info relayed to her by the cops," Mr Crone explained: "They suggested that they were not widening the case to include other NoW people, but would do so if they got direct evidence, say NoW journos directly accessing the voicemails (this is what did for Clive)."
In an apparent reference to the raid by detectives on Mulcaire's home and office on 8 August 2006, the email noted: "The only payment records they found were from News International, ie the NoW retainer and other invoices, they said that over the period they looked at (going way back) there seemed to be over £1 million of payments. They're going to contact RW (Rebekah Wade, Ms Brooks's maiden name) today to see if she wishes to take it further."
In his written statement to the inquiry, released yesterday, Mr Paddick said: "The [Met] told Ms Wade that the[y] were not widening the case to include other News of the World people, but would do so if they received further evidence. That information was provided at a time when the MPS were attempting to obtain evidence... The MPS were effectively tipping NGN [News Group Newspapers] off and NGN could then, as indeed they did, avoid providing evidence of the involvement of other journalists."