Rupert Murdoch defends Rebekah Brooks over horse


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The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch has leapt to the defence of Rebekah Brooks, saying his former protegee is being criticised for "saving an old horse from the glue factory".

Mr Murdoch took to Twitter to defend the former News International chief executive after it emerged Scotland Yard chiefs loaned her a police horse which she later returned in a "poor" condition.

He wrote: "Now they are complaining about R Brooks saving an old horse from the glue factory!"

Mr Murdoch has been a strong supporter of Ms Brooks and appeared with her in front of the cameras when he first flew into the UK as the phone-hacking scandal emerged.

Asked at the time what his priority was, he gestured towards her and said: "This one."

It emerged yesterday that Ms Brooks "fostered" the animal, called Raisa, after it retired from active service in 2008 but handed it back two years later as she no longer wanted it.

She paid for food and vet bills until it was rehoused with a police officer in 2010 - months before fresh investigations into illegal activities at the News of the World.

Details of the two-year loan come amid continuing scrutiny over the close relationship between police and the media giant.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed that riding enthusiast Ms Brooks was first given permission to take charge of the horse in 2008 but disclosed further details last night.

A police spokesman said: "In 2007 a request was made by Rebekah Brooks to home a retired police horse.

"Mounted Branch conducted the normal property and welfare inspection, which was passed. As a result, 22-year-old retired horse Raisa was loaned to Rebekah Brooks in 2008.

"The MPS was contacted in early 2010 by an individual on behalf of Rebekah Brooks who asked the MPS (the Metropolitan Police Service) to re-home Raisa, which was then 24, due to the horse no longer being ridden.

"When the horse was returned, Raisa was regarded by officers from Mounted Branch to be in a poor but not serious condition."

The horse later died of natural causes.

Police added: "When rehoming a retired MPS horse, the appropriate welfare checks are carried out by Mounted Branch officers."

Ms Brooks, 43, is married to racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks.

The horse she borrowed was one of 12 retired by the force in 2008. A further 29 had their duties ended between 2009 and 2011.

Many of the animals are retired with the Horse Trust charity in Buckinghamshire.

Ms Brooks remains on bail after being questioned by detectives last summer on suspicion of phone hacking and corruption.

She was arrested and questioned in July, days after resigning as chief executive.

Metropolitan Police figures showed that there were 829 potential victims of phone hacking, of whom 231 were said to be uncontactable.

The force said it informed the Leveson Inquiry on February 14 that Ms Brooks had been loaned the horse.