REBEKAH BROOKS finally fell on her sword last night, resigning as chief executive of News International.
After 11 days of steadfast support from Rupert Murdoch, the political onslaught and public outcry over the phone hacking scandal claimed its biggest scalp.
Mrs Brooks, 42, had worked at News International for 22 years and at 32 became the youngest editor of a national newspaper, editing The Sun and the News of the World.
''I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place,'' she said in a statement.
''I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However, my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate. This is now detracting from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past.
''At News International we pride ourselves on setting the news agenda for the right reasons. Today we are leading the news for the wrong ones.''
Mrs Brooks said her resignation had previously been discussed but this time was accepted.
The head of the parliamentary select committee looking into the scandal, John Whittingdale, said: ''I think most people will feel it's the right decision but perhaps it's one that should have come a lot earlier.''
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Opposition Leader, Ed Miliband, welcomed the move. Through his spokesman Mr Cameron said the move was ''the right decision'' while Mr Miliband said he was pleased that Mrs Brooks had finally accepted responsibility for what happened on her watch and he hoped that Rupert Murdoch would also begin to take responsibility when he appeared before the parliamentary committee next week.
The anti-hacking activist and Labour MP Tom Watson said the focus would now turn to corporate governance by James Murdoch, who had ‘‘very big questions’’ to answer regarding the payment of money to a hacking victim.
Mr Watson said the parliamentary committee hearing next week would not get the whole story as the Murdochs ‘‘will give as many non-answers as they can’’.
He predicted that Britain was only halfway through the scandal because the revelations so far related only to one investigator: ‘‘We know this company used other investigators who used other technologies, and when the full facts of that come out I think the nation will be shocked.’’
Mrs Brooks will be replaced by Tom Mockridge, originally a newspaper journalist in New Zealand. He has most recently been running Sky Italia, Sky TV’s Italian television news operations, and has little recent background in papers, making him a cleanskin.
Mr Mockridge worked for the Herald’s Canberra bureau in the 1980s before becoming an adviser to Paul Keating while he was treasurer.
It is not known why Mrs Brooks has quit now after 11 days of steadfast support from her employers in the face of a political onslaught but it came hours after it was reported by London’s Telegraph that Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth was furious and had told friends Mrs Brooks had ‘‘f----d the company’’.
A major shareholder who had previously been supportive of the company’s defensive stance had also called for Mrs Brooks to go. The Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, News Corp’s second-largest shareholder, told the BBC: ‘‘The indications are that her involvement in this matter is explicit. For sure she has to go, you bet she has to go. Ethics to me is very important. I will not tolerate to deal with a company that has a lady or a man that has any sliver of doubts on her or his integrity.’’
James Murdoch issued a statement saying Mrs Brooks had been one of the outstanding editors of her generation. He promised the company would take out national advertisements in the media this weekend apologising for its behaviour.