Tabloid signs off with a sting in the tail for Rebekah Brooks

The tone of the 8,674th and final edition of the News of the World (NOTW) was one of defiance.

The words on the front page simmered with the barely hidden anger of a staff who felt that News Corp's decision to fold the 168-year-old paper was wholly unjustified.

In making "a very proud farewell to our 7.5m loyal readers", it shouted out that it still had an audience.

The accompanying assertion that the NOTW was "The world's greatest newspaper 1843-2011" underlined the point that it had more than a century of tradition before Rupert Murdoch turned up in 1969. This was the newspaper equivalent of being escorted off the premises, feet dragging every step of the way.

Among the clues in the quick crossword were the words "brook", "stink" and "catastrophe", while the cryptic puzzle contained the rather less subtle "criminal enterprise", "string of recordings" and "woman stares wildly at calamity" – perhaps a reference to Rebekah Brooks.

Of the array of covers used to illustrate the front page, two of the most prominent were produced by editor Colin Myler's current team; the revelations of Test matches being fixed and of the Duchess of York commercially exploiting her royal status.

Reminders of that long history were everywhere: a reproduction on page two of the original 1843 front page appeared opposite a reference to the fact that A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens had been reviewed in the paper's launch edition.

The apology for hacking was buried in the editorial. "There is no justification for this appalling wrongdoing. No justification for the pain caused to victims, nor for the deep stain it has left on a great history," it said. On the first news spread, Mazher Mahmood, the investigations editor known as the "Fake Sheikh" for his numerous disguises, was presented as the paper's biggest star, with details given of some of the 250 people convicted as a result of his stories.

The next pages contained a retrospective of the paper's campaigns, giving pride of place to the crusade for a Sarah's Law to combat paedophiles, and to lobbying on behalf of British troops. Ironically, it was the paper's phone hacking of an abducted child and grieving military relatives that brought about its downfall.

On page 17, the Fake Sheikh managed one last "brothel creeper" with a story about a vice king called "Mr Pig".

But though a collector's edition, this wasn't a classic. The paper bowed out with a friendlier mix of warm stories and quotes from readers. Having so recently been the big beast of British tabloids, the condemned NOTW had drawn in its fangs.