THE Metropolitan Police chief sensationally quit last night as the phone hacking scandal spread to the top of the UK establishment to claim its most high-profile scalp yet.
The shock resignation came just hours after former News International boss Rebekah Brooks was arrested over her role in the affair, taking the total number of arrests to 10.
Sir Paul Stephenson was forced to step down after it emerged former News of the World executive Neil Wallis, who was arrested last week as part of the hacking investigation, was on the police payroll.
The outgoing police chief also accepted a luxury holiday at Champneys health spa, for which Wallis was acting as a publicist. Sir Paul denied any knowledge of the link and claimed he had no suspicions that Wallis had been involved in illegal activity.
In a parting shot at David Cameron, Sir Paul, who will oversee a six-month handover, likened his connection with Wallis to the Prime Minister’s relationship with Andy Coulson, the PM’s former spin doctor who was also arrested last week. Mayor of London Boris Johnson, with whom Sir Paul had a fractious relationship, said it was with “great sadness” that he accepted the resignation.
The resignation pre-empted a Commons statement today in which home secretary Theresa May planned to criticise the role of the police in the scandal.
Meanwhile Brooks spent over 10 hours in police custody after being arrested by appointment by officers working on Operation Weeting. She was questioned over phone hacking and alleged payments made to police officers. Her arrest was arranged on Friday after her resignation from News International was accepted.
Brooks stepped down from News International after political pressure reached fever pitch. Her appearance at a media select committee hearing tomorrow, in which she faces a grilling from MPs alongside her former boss Rupert Murdoch and his son James, has now been thrown into doubt.
At the very least it is likely to mean she will be unable to answer many of the questions the committee will throw at her as a result of the police investigation.