Rebekah Brooks' gift horse

No word yet on whether she looked in its mouth.

By , Staff writer

The expanding inquiry into the culture of bribery, phone hacking, and generally cozy relations between reporters at Rupert Murdoch's British tabloids and the UK police, has yielded a nugget that's a bit of an early Christmas present for tabloid headline writers.

Rebekah Brooks, a Murdoch confidante and former editor of his defunct weekly tabloid News of the World, was given a horse by the Metropolitan police. The retired police horse was housed at Brooks' country estate for about two years ending in 2010, and her spokesman has said that it was an act of charity on her part. The Mirror, a rival of Murdoch's tabloid The Sun, has dubbed the event "horsegate." You can count on them riding this one for a few days yet.

(The Sun, oddly, is ignoring the horse story to focus on what celebrities are getting up to on Twitter and warning that drug violence in UK cities is "as bad as Mexico.")

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Brooks may be hounded by the police now and is out on bail on charges connected to the News of the World scandal, but she was once a major mover and shaker in British politics and society.

The news that the police turned to Ms. Brooks when seeking housing for the steed is likely to raise fresh questions about her cozy relationship with them. The investigation of illegal activity at the once powerful News of the World and its sister tabloid The Sun (which this week started a Sunday edition to fill the hole in the Murdoch stable left by the closure of NotW) has increasingly focused on the bribes paid to policemen for information and concerns that could have been suborning the UK justice system.

On Sunday Sue Akers, the police officer heading the investigation, said a public official had received over £80,000 over the years from The Sun and that a number of police received financial retainers from the paper.

"The cases we are investigating are not ones involving the odd drink, or meal, to police officers or other public officials," Akers told parliament. "There appears to have been a culture at the Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money."

The Sun, meanwhile, has complained the police investigation is a "witch-hunt" that has left the British press less free than in the successor states to the Soviet Union.

Follow Dan Murphy on Twitter.

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