Thursday 1 March 2012

Sun defence editor arrested

The defence editor of the Sun newspaper was arrested today on suspicion of paying public officials for information. Virginia Wheeler, 32, appeared at a south London police station by appointment to answer questions related to evidence sent by News Corporation's management standards committee to Scotland Yard. Sun publisher News International confirmed Ms Wheeler had been arrested in an email sent to its staff. A Metropolitan Police spokesman later confirmed a 32-year-old woman had been bailed to a date in May. Ms Wheeler had been abroad on extended leave in recent months, a source said. Police are understood to have wanted to question her for several weeks. She becomes the 23rd person to be arrested by officers working on Operation Elveden. Ms Wheeler is The Sun's first female defence editor and reported from the front line in Libya last year. The arrest was made under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 on suspicion of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office (contrary to common law) and conspiracy in relation to both offences. Operation Elveden - which runs alongside the Met's Operation Weeting team - was launched as the phone-hacking scandal erupted last July with allegations about the now-defunct News of the World targeting Milly Dowler's mobile phone. It has now widened to include suspected corruption involving public officials, as well as police officers. A Met Police spokesman said: "Detectives from Operation Elveden have today arrested a 32-year-old woman by appointment on suspicion of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office (contrary to common law) and conspiracy in relation to both offences." Ms Wheeler's arrest in connection with Operation Elveden follows those of 10 other former or current employees at The Sun. District editor Jamie Pyatt, 48, was the first to be arrested in November, while senior employees Chris Pharo, 42, and Mike Sullivan along with executives Fergus Shanahan, 57, and Graham Dudman were detained in January. The tabloid's deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, and news editor John Sturgis were then arrested last month. A serving member of the armed forces, a Ministry of Defence employee and a Surrey Police officer have also been detained in connection with the investigation. All were later bailed pending further inquiries. Their arrests led The Sun's associate editor Trevor Kavanagh to launch an attack on police, claiming his colleagues had been treated like "members of an organised crime gang". Former News of the World crime editor Lucy Panton, who is married to a Scotland Yard detective, was also arrested as part of the investigation into the paying of police officers in December. Others questioned as part of the inquiry include former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson, former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner, and the paper's former royal editor Clive Goodman. The latest arrest comes as former police chiefs were giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry today. Peter Clarke, former head of the Met's counter-terror division, and John Yates, who was forced to resign as assistant commissioner over the phone-hacking scandal, were questioned while Andy Hayman, the officer in charge of the original hacking investigation in 2006, was also due to appear.