Alleged attempt to interfere in appointment of Londonâ€™s top policeman
Rebekah Brooks faced fresh controversy last night, 12 days after she was cleared of all charges in the phone hacking scandal.
The Mail on Sunday has learned of an alleged attempt to meddle in the appointment of Britainâ€™s top policeman â€“ who was later forced to resign over his links to the former News of the World and The Sun editor.
Sir Paul Stephenson stood down as Metropolitan Police Commissioner in July 2011, hours after Mrs Brooksâ€™s arrest on phone hacking charges.
He admitted that he had employed former News of the World executive Neil Wallis as an aide and had enjoyed a free Â£12,000 stay at a health farm which employed Mr Wallis as a public relations adviser.
An investigation by this newspaper has established that when Sir Paul was appointed by then Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a senior News International figure â€“ not Mrs Brooks or Mr Wallis â€“ secretly told No 10 that Mrs Brooks did not want Sir Paulâ€™s main rival, Sir Hugh Orde, to get the job.
Sir Hughâ€™s hopes of getting the role had been hit when the News of the World revealed he had an illegitimate child from an affair with an undercover policewoman.
They are the latest developments in a long-running controversy over Mrs Brooksâ€™s relationship with the police, including the loan to her of a Metropolitan Police horse, Raisa, which was also ridden by her friend and Oxfordshire neighbour, Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mrs Brooks and her husband, the racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, were cleared of all charges in the phone hacking trial, which ended nearly two weeks ago.
No charges were ever laid against Mr Wallis.
The new disclosures date back to the battle to succeed Sir Ian Blair as head of Londonâ€™s police in 2009, which came down to a contest between Sir Hugh and Sir Paul.
The Mail on Sunday has been told that shortly before Sir Paul was appointed, a News International representative contacted No 10 and said Mrs Brooks was opposed to Sir Hugh getting the post.
â€˜The message was very clear. She did not want Hugh Orde to be the Met Commissioner, and she wanted that message conveyed to the PM,â€™ said a well-placed source.
Sir Paul got the job after he was backed by then Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, London Mayor Boris Johnson, and Mr Brown. There is no suggestion that his appointment was influenced by the News International approach.
Sir Hugh had long been tipped as a future Commissioner after winning praise for his role in the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, improving police relations with ethnic minorities and his record as head of the Northern Ireland police force.
But his hopes suffered a major setback in 2007 when the News of the World revealed that he had an illegitimate child.
The story appeared two weeks after Andy Coulson, jailed last week for phone hacking, stepped down as editor following a previous phone hacking scandal. Mrs Brooks was News of the World editor until 2003 when she became editor of The Sun. She was chief executive of News International, which owned both papers, from June 2009 to 2011.
Mr Wallis was News of the World deputy editor from 2003 to 2007 and executive editor from 2007 to 2009.
In his resignation statement, Sir Paul said that he had known Mr Wallis since 2006 and that the Metropolitan Police hired him as an adviser from 2009 to 2010.
The News of the World story in 2007 which revealed the extra marital affair involving Sir Hugh, then head of Ulsterâ€™s police force, said: â€˜Loverat top cop Hugh Orde last night pleaded guilty toâ€¦ adultery. His three-year affair with a pretty Detective Constable led to the birth of a secret son.â€™
It said a â€˜palâ€™ of the lovers had revealed details of the affair and added: â€˜What the news of his existence will do for Sir Hughâ€™s career is anyoneâ€™s guess.
â€˜The fact heâ€™s got a secret son tucked away in the Home Counties does not look good on the CV.â€™
In September 2007, the News of the World was also first to report the affair had led to the end of his marriage.
It said: â€˜Sir Hugh, tipped to be the next Met Police boss, broke up with wife Kathleen months after she found out about his affair.â€™
A source close to Sir Hugh said: â€˜It is staggering that anyone from News International might attempt to influence the appointment of the countryâ€™s most senior policeman. Sir Hugh is fiercely independent and would have run the Met in that manner.â€™
Mr Brown could not be contacted. Sir Paul and Mrs Brooks declined to comment. A source close to her denied that she urged Mr Brown to block Sir Hugh.