Police confiscate passport from Brooks' assistant

 

The executive personal assistant to Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, has had her passport confiscated, been separated from her family and been forced to postpone a new career with Rupert Murdoch's media empire in Australia following her arrest as part of the phone-hacking affair.

Cheryl Carter, who was arrested last month by officers from Scotland Yard's Operation Weeting team, which was set up to investigate phone hacking at the News of the World, had been preparing to fly to Australia at the end of January to start a new life with News Ltd, part of News Corp.

But following her arrest and further questioning, police have told her to remain in the UK. Her husband and family are understood to have flown to Australia to meet visa requirements.

Ms Carter, 47, was the 17th person to be held by the Operation Weeting team. She was arrested at her home in Billericay, Essex, only days before she and her husband and two children were due to leave for Australia. She worked directly for Ms Brooks for many years and is understood to have left NI shortly after the former chief executive resigned from the company in the summer.

Sources at NI said that she had been planning to move to Australia for many years. But other colleagues were surprised at Ms Carter's planned departure and that she was able to get a visa from the Australian authorities.

"Cheryl is an Essex girl through and through and devoted to her family," said one. "It's quite difficult to get to Australia and Cheryl is a make-up expert – she doesn't exactly have expert skills."

Ms Carter worked for Ms Brooks for 19 years and was intimate with her working arrangements. She was PA to Ms Brooks as she climbed the ladder at NI, being appointed News of the World editor in 2000, Sun editor in 2003, and then NI chief executive in 2009.

Ms Carter was also a beauty editor for The Sun and is a partner in a cosmetics business with former model and celebrity make-up artist Sue Moxley, and has also offered beauty tips on the website Thinkingslimmer.com.

In recent weeks, police have arrested a succession of senior journalists at The Sun as part of the Operation Elveden inquiry into alleged bribery of public officials. In a backlash led by the paper's assistant editor, Trevor Kavanagh, complaints have been made that the arrests, which have included the ripping up of floorboards and the searching of children's possessions, have amounted to a "witch-hunt".

News Corp's Management & Standards Committee, which is working alongside the police in identifying potential criminality, has made representations to Scotland Yard asking that officers are less aggressive when carrying out raids on the homes of journalists. The Yard has defended the raids as proportionate and necessary.

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