One of the longest-serving senior executives in the recent history of the News of the World was arrested yesterday by police investigating the tabloid for phone hacking and illicit payments to police officers.
Stuart Kuttner, 71, had worked for the newspaper for nearly 30 years and was responsible for managing its finances. He is the 11th person to be arrested in relation to the phone-hacking scandal and was held after arriving with his solicitor for an appointment at a London police station.
He is understood to have been questioned by officers from the Operation Weeting team, which is investigating phone hacking, and those from Operation Elveden, which is probing the unlawful payment of police officers. It is believed he has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, a breach of the Criminal Law Act 1977, and on suspicion of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. He was released on bail last night until later this month, police said.
As the NOTW's managing editor, Mr Kuttner is believed to have signed off the £100,000-a-year "research and information services" contract for Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator convicted in 2007 of phone hacking. News International would not comment on the arrest except to say that it "continues to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan Police" in its inquiries.
The development follows the arrests of the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, the former NOTW editor Andy Coulson, the paper's former assistant editor Ian Edmondson, the senior journalists James Weatherup and Neville Thurlbeck, the former royal editor Clive Goodman and the freelance reporter Terenia Taras.
Mr Kuttner, according to one former colleague yesterday, saw himself as "the keeper of the flame" at the NOTW, the newspaper to which he dedicated himself for three decades. When he finally retired from the paper two years ago, the editor, Colin Myler, said: "His DNA is absolutely integrated into the newspaper, which he has represented across the media with vigour."
A former stalwart of the newsroom, he was an instinctive tabloid journalist who – according to the paper's official history book – once wrote out a personal cheque for £50,000 at 1981 prices in order to secure the "buy-up" of an exclusive interview, which he had skilfully negotiated after a murder trial, thus thwarting the paper's rivals. As he signed off the cheque, Mr Kuttner forewarned the paper's financial director and his own bank manager.
As the NOTW's managing editor from 1987 he was responsible for the paper's accounts and was a notoriously strict bean-counter. His nickname in the newsroom was "Kuttie" because he was prepared to question reporters and reduce their expenses.
He was managing editor during the reign of eight editors. When the paper itself became the news, as it often did, and when editors such as Ms Brooks shied away from the cameras, it was Mr Kuttner who represented the paper.
He publicly defended the newspaper's publication of secretly recorded comments made by the Countess of Wessex and claimed that the tabloid's offer of £150,000 for information about the murder of the Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman was part of its "broad public duty".
Not that he was a natural performer on camera – footage of him giving evidence to MPs shows a nervous figure organising his pen and paper in front of him. But Mr Kuttner was regarded as being "seriously connected" at high levels in society and often landed the paper exclusives.
He left the NOTW in 2009 due to his age and bad health. A few weeks after his departure, the phone-hacking scandal flared up again. The lights went out altogether at the NOTW last month. The keeper of the flame was gone by then – time will tell if his fingers were burnt.
* The protester who threw a foam pie at Rupert Murdoch was jailed for six weeks yesterday. Jonathan May-Bowles, 26, pleaded guilty last week to assaulting the 80-year-old tycoon as he gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
WSJ attacks Mirror
The Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, yesterday published a story in which it claimed a reporter working for the Sunday Mirror had admitted paying police for information. The WSJ quoted Jane Phillips, a lawyer involved in a court case in 2000, as saying she was "amazed" when the reporter admitted paying around £50 to a police source. But there is no trial transcript and Ronald Thwaites, the barrister representing the newspaper at the libel hearing, told the WSJ that he had no recollection of the alleged admission. "I have found no reference of him saying that he made a payment to a police officer."
Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Sunday Mirror, declined to comment, as did the Metropolitan Police.
The editor of the Sunday Mirror at the time was Colin Myler, who was the last editor of the News of the World before it closed. Mr Myler has subsequently clashed with James Murdoch, the chief operating officer of News Corp in Europe and Asia, by questioning the evidence he gave to MPs investigating the phone-hacking scandal.
The WSJ has previously claimed in an editorial that the phone hacking scandal is driven by "commercial and ideological motives".