Phone-hacking: police arrest uni lecturer

A university lecturer was arrested today over phone-hacking at the News of the World.

Bethany Usher, who once worked at the axed Sunday tabloid and its former rival the People, is being questioned in custody at a police station in Northumbria, sources said.

The 31-year-old – who was questioned by officers in 2006 on suspicion of providing false information for a job at Buckingham Palace – becomes the 17th person to be arrested by officers from Scotland Yard’s Operation Weeting hacking investigation.

Officers said the suspect was being held this morning in connection with conspiring to intercept communications.

Usher, who worked in the newspaper industry for seven years, is currently a senior journalism lecturer at Teesside University.

She studied at Leeds University before getting her first job as a trainee reporter on the Sunderland Echo.

According to her biography on the university’s website: “Bethany has won four awards and was named young journalist of the year in 2003.”

Regarding her arrest, a spokesman for the university said: “We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.”

Usher has referred several times to the Leveson Inquiry on her Twitter page, @bethanyusher.

One tweet yesterday read: “For god sake Paul McMullen, shut your sickening trap.”

Another, posted on Monday, said: “Am I the only former tabloid reporter who followed the #PCC? #Leveson. Hey kids. They the rules, stick to them. #mediateesside.”

She is the first Weeting arrest since sports journalist Raoul Simons, 35, was held in September.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “At 06.35am officers arrested the woman on suspicion of conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages… The woman is now in custody at a police station in Northumbria.

“It would be inappropriate to discuss any further details at this time.”

Scotland Yard’s phone-hacking squad is working its way through 300 million e-mails from News International.

Detectives have arrested a series of high-profile figures, including former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson.

The scandal has already led to the closure of the News of the World after 168 years, prompted a major public inquiry and forced the resignation of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates.

New Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe says police have already spent up to £3m on salaries, with officers speaking to 1,800 of 6,000 potential victims.

A total of 120 officers and staff are now working on the entire investigation after 1,800 people came forward to express fears that they may have been victims of hacking.

UPDATE 30/11/11 4.10pm:

Police have said the suspect has been bailed until late March.

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