The investigation into police corruption and newspapers' illegal payments to officers was yesterday extended to The Sun, as detectives arrested one of the tabloid's longest-serving reporters at his home near Windsor.
Jamie Pyatt, the first journalist from Rupert Murdoch's News International flagship title to be arrested by the Metropolitan Police's Operation Elveden, has been at The Sun since 1987. He is a gatherer of intimate stories about the Royal Family and broke the exclusive of Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi Afrika Korp soldier en route to a party in Windsor Castle.
When details of the Pyatt arrest spread in The Sun's Wapping newsroom, the mood of staff was described as "angry" and "close to insurrection", with several complaining that one of their own was being sacrificed ahead of James Murdoch's appearance in front of Parliament next week to answer questions on phone hacking.
Mr Pyatt, 49, was among senior journalists across all Murdoch-owned titles in Wapping recently interviewed as part of NI's internal review of its journalistic practices. Journalists in Wapping now believe further arrests will follow.
Senior NI sources believe some of Mr Pyatt's email correspondence, discovered during the internal review, was passed to Elveden detectives by company management. Journalists have had their desktopand mobile computers checked, expenses going back years have been scrutinised and external payments authorised by news executives have also been re-evaluated.
Mr Pyatt's arrest at 10.30am is the sixth made by Elveden detectives, in addition to 16 arrests made by the separate Operating Weeting investigation into phone hacking. His house was searched, he was driven to a west London police station and was being questioned late last night.
Elveden was set up as a result of documents gathered by the Met's investigation into phone hacking at the NOTW. The former Sun and NOTW editor Rebekah Brooks has admitted to a Commons select committee that NI titles had paid police for information. She was arrested in July on suspicion of corruption as well as claims of hacking.
Kelvin MacKenzie, a former Sun editor who had worked with Mr Pyatt, said: "Jamie Pyatt is a terrific journalist who has been loyal to The Sun for 25 years. I'd be interested to know how the management, during this period of time, thought stories were garnered? They don't fly in through the window."
A news editor during Mr MacKenzie's high-profile reign, Mr Pyatt later returned to his home beat as The Sun's Thames Valley district man. At his local Windsor Rugby Club, where he coached the club's teenage backs, he was known as "Earl Bronski of Wapping" because of his resemblance to the shaven-headed Bronski Beat pop singer, Jimmy Somerville.
James Murdoch is to make his second appearance before the Commons committee on hacking next week after discrepancies arose between his previous testimony and that of his key lieutenants about how much he knew about phone hacking, and when.