March 13, 2012 at 7:41 AM ET
LONDON -- Former News Corp chief executive and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks, a close friend of British Prime Minister David Cameron, were arrested Tuesday in a wide-ranging investigation into phone hacking in the British media, NBC News reported.
A total of six people were arrested in the early morning on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, British police said in a statement. The charge is an indication that investigators may be focusing on a possible attempted coverup of the scope of phone hacking.
The investigation stems from widespread wrongdoing at Rupert Murdoch's now-closed News of the World tabloid. The victims have ranged from celebrities and major politicians to the families of crime victims.
Police, who did not release any names, said a 43-year-old woman was arrested at her home in Oxfordshire and she was being questioned by police there. Also arrested were a 49-year-old man in Oxfordshire, a 39-year-old man in Hampshire, a 46-year-old man in West London, a 38-year-old man in Hertforshire and a 48-year-old man in East London.
It emerged recently that Rebekah Brooks got a free horse from the U.K. police, and that this horse was subsequently ridden by Cameron. Police are also investigating allegations of illegal payments made by some British newspapers to police officers.
Rebekah Brooks was previously arrested in July 2011 at her apartment block in an exclusive area of Chelsea, West London, on suspicion of phone hacking and corruption.
Her husband Charlie, a former race horse trainer, reportedly tried to reclaim a computer, paperwork and a phone from a trash can outside the apartment block, saying they were his. But detectives removed the items for investigation, NBC reported.
According to a count by the BBC, the total number of arrests made in the Operation Weeting phone-hacking inquiry is 45.
A judge-led inquiry into media ethics has heard extensive testimony about wrongdoing by tabloid journalists, and Murdoch's company has reached cash settlements with a number of victims.
There is also a simultaneous investigation into corrupt relations between the police and the press which has yielded a number of arrests in recent weeks.
An inquiry panel appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to determine why an initial police investigation into phone hacking in 2006 failed to reveal the scope of the problem.
At the time, Murdoch's executives claimed the wrongdoing was limited to one scurrilous reporter and an unprincipled private detective, both of whom were jailed.
The dormant police investigation was reopened last year after reporters were found to have hacked into the voicemail of a missing schoolgirl who was later found to have been murdered.
That investigation led to the resignation of Cameron's top media adviser, Andy Coulson, who had been the editor of the News of the World. Like Rebekah Brooks, Coulson has denied wrongdoing.
Murdoch's company has reached cash settlements with various hacking victims, including actress Sienna Miller and singer Charlotte Church, but many new cases are being brought against News International, the U.K. newspaper branch of Murdoch's global media empire.
The scandal also scuttled Murdoch's plans to purchase full control of the British broadcaster BSkyB.
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NBC News correspondent Keir Simmons and The Associated Press contributed to this report.