Phone-hacking Met investigator to stand down

Police say investigations into the Murdoch empire's journalistic practices will continue at full strength

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The Independent Online

The senior Scotland Yard officer leading the investigation into allegations that the Murdoch media empire carried out widespread phone and computer hacking is to stand down from her job after the Olympics.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers assumed control of the Metropolitan Police inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal in January 2011, after evidence emerged in its first investigation that the scandal went well beyond the "rogue" News of the World reporter convicted in 2007. At the time, police faced widespread allegations of cronyism, corruption and high-level bungling.

Akers launched a fresh investigation which is widely regarded as having repaired much of the damage while withstanding political pressure to curtail its scope. Critics have complained that the total cost of the investigations could reach £40m and tie up 200 officers at a time when routine police work is being cut back. Since the inquiries began, there have been more than 50 arrests, with more expected.

"I told Paul Stephenson [then Commissioner of the Met] a couple of years ago – long before Weeting came up – that I would stay until after the Olympics," says Akers. "But I have now done 36 years, which as far as I know makes me by far the longest-serving woman in the Met, and it has always been my intention to go this summer. Of course it would have been nice to see Operations Weeting, Elvedon and Tuleta [into computer hacking] through to their conclusions, but that could be a while yet."

Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey said DAC Akers' experience would be missed, but insisted it would not detract from the investigations.

A Met spokesman said no decision had been taken as to who will take over these operations. Unconfirmed reports suggest that her staff had encouraged Akers to ask to go part-time.

The Labour MP Tom Watson, who has done much to expose the extent of phone hacking, said yesterday: "Her departure will be a big loss to UK policing. At times, it has felt like she has single-handedly carried the responsibility of restoring the Met's tarnished reputation."

David Cameron twice sought personal assurances from Rupert Murdoch about claims that Andy Coulson, Cameron's press chief, was not implicated in the hacking scandal, according to a new book about the Prime Minister serialised today in The Independent on Sunday. Mr Cameron first asked while on board Mr Murdoch's yacht Rosehearty anchored off the Greek island of Santorini in August 2008. Mr Cameron and his wife had been flown there on board a private jet chartered by Murdoch's son-in-law Matthew Freud. Mr Murdoch assured him the police knew everything and blamed his "political enemies" for stirring up trouble. The PM sought assurances again before the 2010 election, and received the same answer. Later in 2010, after fresh allegations were published about hacking, sources in Mr Murdoch's News International told the PM that "he no longer should feel obliged to protect Coulson", according to the book.

Mr Murdoch has denied reports that his British newspapers are to be sold off to protect the rest of his media interests from the British criminal and judicial investigations.