Phone hacking timeline: From party to police station in two weeks

2 July 2011

The political and media elite drink champagne until 4am at the Cotswolds mansion of Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth and her husband Matthew Freud, in what now appears to have been the last hurrah of the Chipping Norton set.

Politicians including the Education Secretary Michael Gove, the Culture minister Ed Vaizey and former Labour ministers Peter Mandelson and David Miliband all attend, as do many News International executives. Rebekah Brooks is said to have been locked in conversation with James Murdoch for much of the night.

4 July

Reports emerge in the afternoon suggesting that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone was hacked by investigators working for the News of the World after she went missing in 2002, while Rebekah Brooks was editing the paper. The Dowler family's solicitor says they believe some of Milly's voicemail messages may also have been deleted, giving her parents false hope that she may have been alive.

5 July

Ms Brooks faces intense scrutiny as the public and politicians express outrage over the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. David Cameron calls it a "truly dreadful act", while Ms Brooks sends a group email to News International staff in which she says she is "appalled and shocked by the revelations", adding that it is "inconceivable" that she knew about the hacking, "or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations".

7 July

News International chairman James Murdoch announces that the News of the World will close after one final edition. Ms Brooks is reported to be in tears as she addresses staff.

8 July

"This is not exactly the best time in my life," Ms Brooks tells staff at the 168-year-old Sunday paper, at a meeting which is secretly recorded by a disgruntled employee. She says she will not resign, leading many to express anger that she will keep her job while they lose theirs.

10 July

Rupert Murdoch arrives in the UK to take charge of the crisis engulfing his empire. He meets Ms Brooks at his London apartment, and when the pair leave, smiling, he is asked what his top priority is. He gestures towards Ms Brooks and says: "She is."

13 July

Pressure builds on Ms Brooks as the family of Milly Dowler call on her to resign. In an unexpected turn, News Corp, the parent company of News International, withdraws its BSkyB takeover bid.

14 July

Ms Brooks agrees to give evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

15 July

The day is dubbed "Bloody Friday" for Rupert Murdoch as Ms Brooks resigns as chief executive of News International after more than 20 years with the company. Les Hinton, the chief executive of Dow Jones and another of Mr Murdoch's most trusted confidants, follows later that night.

In an internal email to staff, Ms Brooks says she had quit to avoid distracting attention from News International's efforts to "fix the problems of the past". David Cameron calls her resignation "the right decision".

17 July

Ms Brooks is arrested at a London police station – the latest act in the dramatic downfall of a woman who until two weeks ago enjoyed the company of Britain's most influential people.

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