Two men arrested in tabloid phone hacking probe

LONDON Tue Apr 5, 2011 3:37pm BST

A sign is seen outside the News International Limited complex, in London, January 27, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

A sign is seen outside the News International Limited complex, in London, January 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

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LONDON (Reuters) - Two men were arrested in an investigation into phone-hacking at Britain's top-selling newspaper, police said on Tuesday, in a case that has rocked the media and forced the prime minister's spokesman to resign.

The men were held on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and unlawful interception of voicemail messages after voluntarily going to different London police stations.

One of those arrested was Ian Edmondson, a former senior editor at the News of the World tabloid who was sacked after an internal inquiry into his conduct.

"(He) was arrested today having attended voluntarily at a police station. He has not been charged," his lawyer Eddie Parladorio said in a brief statement.

Sky News, which like the News of the World belongs to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media group, named the other man as Neville Thurlbeck, the paper's chief reporter.

News International, which also publishes The Times newspaper, said it was co-operating with the police.

"In January, News International voluntarily approached the Met Police and provided information that led to the opening of the current police investigation," it said in a statement. "News International has consistently reiterated that it will not tolerate wrong-doing and is committed to acting on evidence."

The scandal dates back to 2005/6, when the News of the World's royal reporter and a private detective were arrested and later jailed for snooping on the voicemail messages of royal aides.

London's Metropolitan Police launched a new inquiry last January after being severely criticised by some politicians and celebrities who suspected they too had had their voicemail intercepted. Critics argued the original police probe had not gone far enough, and some have suggested detectives were too close to the News of the World. Police have denied this.

Andy Coulson, the editor of the News of the World at the time of the hacking scandal, quit his job at the paper in 2007, saying he had known nothing about the practice. He later became media chief to Prime Minister David Cameron, but resigned in January, saying the publicity surrounding the case was too distracting.

Cameron, who took power as part of a coalition last May, had repeatedly defended Coulson, prompting criticism of his judgement by the opposition Labour Party.

Murdoch's News Corp was given the green light by the government to take full control of British satellite pay-TV group BSkyB last month.

(Writing by Avril Ormsby, editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Trevelyan)

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