Rebekah Brooks: Friend or Frenemy?

The newest phone-hacking allegation involves the mother of Sarah Payne, the murdered schoolgirl, who was given a cell phone by News of the World during Brooks’s editorial reign

Jamie Miles • Editor
rebekah brooks rupert murdoch news of the world hack scandal image
Photograph: Courtesy of Getty Images

Innocence seems harder and harder to presume for Rebekah Brooks, ex-CEO of News International and past editor of News of the World. According to the Guardian, Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter [Sarah] was murdered in 2000 by a convicted sex offender, is the newest victim suspect to having had her phone hacked by investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Following her daughter’s murder, Payne worked with News of the World to campaign for parents’ rights to access information about sex offenders in their area— modeled after “Megan’s Law” in the U.S.

Payne and Brooks, the paper’s editor during this time, were often seen campaigning together as a duel force, advocating for a change in the law, reported the Guardian. The paper later adopted a policy of “naming and shaming” sex offenders when the government announced no plans to revise the laws. When News of the World published its final issue on July 10, Payne wrote a column declaring, “News of the World and more importantly the people there became my very good and trusted friends.”

According to the Guardian, Payne also acknowledged that there were “rumours” her phone was hacked. Sadly, since the investigation into the phone-hacking allegations, detectives believe they uncovered notes referencing Payne—notes which previously were thought to be connected to other targets but list Payne’s mobile number and possibly a PIN.

In addition, the cell phone in question was said to have been given to Payne by Brooks 11 years ago while Brooks was editor, reports Daily Mail. Brooks has dismissed the allegations as “abhorrent” and “upsetting” because Payne was a “dear friend.” She also explained that the phone was given to Payne for the benefit of the “Sarah’s Law” campaign and was not a personal gift, according to Daily Mail.

Earlier this month it was revealed in the New York Times that News of the World illegally accessed voicemails of murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler. These new allegations of hacking into Payne’s phone just bring into question what other illegality went on under Brooks’s leadership. While Brooks’s knowledge of the hacking is still only a suspicion, reports the Wall Street Journal, the investigation continues—and with it either punishment or clemency.


Click here to view a timeline of Rebekah Brooks's rise and fall.


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First Published July 29, 2011

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