Rebekah Brooks cleared in phone hacking trial: What next for the flame-haired Murdoch 'chosen one' who became the most powerful woman in the British media?

She charmed both the horse-riding David Cameron and 'unofficial adviser' Tony Blair

As Rebekah Brooks walked out of the Old Bailey as a free woman today, the obvious question was “What will she do next?”

For the past three years, since the most powerful woman in British newspapers was arrested, she has been forced out of the media machine which has been her entire life. Cleared of all charges against her, she can now return.

Rupert Murdoch was prepared to fly to London to be at Brooks’s side at the height of her distress in July 2011 and – when asked his priority – to put his arm around her and say “this one”. We can be certain he would welcome her back to his fold.

But it might not be that simple. Although Brooks’s former colleagues have no doubt of Rupert’s affection for her, his News UK publishing stable is trying to create a new corporate culture that distances itself from the hacking scandal which nearly destroyed it. There are more criminal trials to come and, even as an innocent party, Ms Brooks does not help that new image.

Video: Brooks' departure from court

A role in Mr Murdoch’s US operations might appeal to her ambitions but her arrival at 21st Century Fox would not necessarily be welcomed by Rupert’s son James, who does not have happy memories of his traumatic time at News International working alongside Brooks. Rupert’s daughter Elisabeth, another key figure in the family business, is reported to have accused Rebekah of having “f***ed the company”.

Read more:
Coulson found guilty as Brooks cleared of all charges
Hacking trial: David Cameron issues 'full and frank apology
The scandal that led to press' self-examination
How hacking scandal punctured the puffed-up House of Murdoch

Ms Brooks may have to be patient – even if her return to her former employer appears dependent on an 83-year-old maintaining his grip on his global empire.

She became a parent two and a half years ago when her daughter Scarlett was born to a surrogate mother a few months after her arrest. Brooks, 46, has never enjoyed a family life without the threat of these legal proceedings and the possibility of a custodial sentence. She has a chance of some normality now.

Rebekah Brooks enjoyed the unconditional backing of Rupert Murdoch Rebekah Brooks enjoyed the unconditional backing of Rupert Murdoch What is clear is that, after months of high drama at the Old Bailey, she has avoided the fate of being cast as the arch-villainess of any film adaptations of the hacking scandal.

A “Not Guilty” verdict may not have been the outcome film producer Gene Kirkwood hoped for after he optioned rights to a 2012 Vanity Fair magazine profile which introduced Ms Brooks to the American public and attempted to unravel the enigma of this remarkable British newswoman. “She’s a great story,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Her rise... is almost like Great Expectations – with a moral.” The magazine article talked of its subject’s “incandescent ambition” and was headlined “Untangling Rebekah Brooks”.

With her distinctive glorious corkscrew mane, the most famous woman in the British media is often described as Titian-haired and – like the subjects of the Venetian master - she has held the public transfixed. She exercised a similar hold over some of the most powerful men in the worlds of politics and media. She will be wondering how they might help her now.

The men she has charmed included the Prime Minister David Cameron, who sent her affectionate texts - including one that talked of his “fast, unpredictable and hard to control but fun” ride on her horse. After his public apology over his appointment of Andy Coulson today, the Prime Minister will find it awkward to resume his friendship with Ms Brooks.

Tony Blair was so close to her that he was privately promising to act as her “unofficial adviser” when the hacking scandal was at its height. They were in almost daily contact and often signed off texts with an x.

Her network is extensive. Along with key friends such as the PR man Matthew Freud, Brooks assembled the “Chipping Norton set”, an exclusive clique of political and media figures which mingled at social gatherings in the Cotswolds, where she lived with her racehorse training husband Charlie. In an article in the society magazine Tatler in 2009 it was revealed that the couple liked to fly to Venice for lunch at Harry’s Bar before enjoying a spot of shopping and heading back to London in time for dinner in Jermyn Street.

Read more:
How culture of News of the World's glory days led to its downfall
Coulson's future depends on privacy denied the hacking victims

When Scotland Yard made its original hacking arrests in 2006, she had already had a sparkling career, becoming the first female editor of The Sun. She was promoted to chief executive of News International in 2009, making her the most powerful woman in British newspapers. When the company’s largest-selling title, the News of the World, was closed down in disgrace two years later, Rupert Murdoch was adamant that no blame should fall on his adored protégé – even if her immediate boss during the handling of the scandal, Rupert’s second son James, was facing calls for his own resignation. “I’m not throwing innocent people under the bus,” he said, rejecting her initial offer to quit, although political pressure later forced her to resign.

Although Brooks’s network means she will have work options beyond News Corp, she has devoted her career to the company. After school in Warrington she briefly lived in Paris and her Who’s Who entry says she studied at the Sorbonne (where she attended a language course). It was an indication of her uncompromising ambition. She joined the News of the World as a secretary at the age of 20 and, a little more than a decade later, became editor.

During the Old Bailey proceedings, Brooks’s barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, complained that his client was being portrayed as an “arch-criminal” starring in a “pantomime”. If she remains on the stage of British life there will be many who will continue to hiss and boo at the sight of her. But at least this still enigmatic figure is free to come and go as she pleases.

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?