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High-rolling Brooks couple at centre of hacking storm

High-rolling Brooks couple at centre of hacking storm

Rebekah Brooks, one of Rupert Murdoch’s closest confidantes, and her horse trainer husband Charlie are a high-society couple who are part of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s social circle.

By Agence France-Presse

Thursday 17 May 2012, 03:11PM

Rebekah Brooks, former Chief Executive of News International, leaves a lawyers  office after addressing the media in London on May 15. Photo: AFP

Rebekah Brooks, former Chief Executive of News International, leaves a lawyers office after addressing the media in London on May 15. Photo: AFP

But the couple could both face jail sentences if found guilty after being charged Tuesday with obstructing justice, along with four others, in the first criminal charges from Britain’s News of the World phone hacking scandal.

The scandal has already led to Brooks, 43, leaving her job and to the closure of the News of the World, the tabloid she once led as one of Britain’s youngest newspaper editors – and one of its few female editors too.

But until recently the couple were close to Cameron and moved with some of Britain’s biggest names as part of the so-called “Chipping Norton set”, an elite social circle based in a quaint Oxfordshire town.

They reportedly first met at a party hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of the popular TV motoring show “Top Gear”, at his Chipping Norton estate.

Red-haired Brooks – until last year the chief executive of Murdoch’s British newspaper arm News International – comes from a relatively humble state-educated background, and is known as ambitious and a skilful networker.

Born Rebekah Wade in northwest England, she joined Murdoch’s News of the World at age 20 as a secretary, and 11 years later was the paper’s editor.

After three years Brooks moved to become the first female editor of sister paper The Sun, where she stayed for six years before being promoted to chief executive of News International.

Her husband is a long-time friend of the prime minister, having met him at the elite boarding school Eton College.

Charlie Brooks, 49, is four years older than the premier but they remained friends as Brooks went on to become an amateur jockey then a racehorse trainer.

Known for his lavish socialite lifestyle, he has also written a racing column for the Telegraph newspaper and a novel, “Citizen”, subtitled Greed, Speed, Corruption and a Race to the Death.

Rebekah was herself the subject of tabloid stories in 2005 when she was arrested then released without charge after her first husband, actor Ross Kemp, suffered a cut to the mouth. She and Kemp later split, and in 2009 she married Charlie Brooks.

The phone-hacking scandal gathered pace in July 2011, leading to Rebekah Brooks’ resignation after two decades at News International and arrest on allegations of phone hacking and bribery.

The couple have since avoided the public eye, apart from Rebekah’s appearances at an inquiry into press ethics and before parliament.

Rebekah Brooks now faces three charges as well as remaining on police bail from her first arrest, while her husband faces one charge.

They are due to appear before magistrates in London on June 13.

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