The revelation that former News International boss Rebekah Brooks was loaned a horse by the Metropolitan Police has caught the public imagination – prompting a slew of puns on Twitter.
Mrs Brooks – who is married to racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks – took the horse on loan in 2008, according to the London Evening Standard, which broke the story.
She resigned from News International in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.
The Evening Standard said the loan of the horse would “raise fresh questions about the close relationship between the police and the [Rupert] Murdoch media empire”.
Yesterday, the Leveson inquiry into press ethics heard that Mrs Brooks was briefed by a senior Met officer on the progress of the original phone hacking inquiry – and was even consulted on how far she thought the investigation should go.
A spokesman for Mrs Brooks confirmed that the loan took place, saying “Rebekah acted as a foster carer for the horse”.
Within minutes of the story breaking, a Twitter account was set up in the name of @rebekahshorse, the subject was trending and a flurry of punning ensued.
Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire tweeted that the story was a “night mare” for the Met, while several tweeps asked whether she had gone “hacking” on the horse. Others joked that Ms Brooks had some “serious equestrians” to answer.
Sunday Times columnist India Knight wondered if “Rebekah Brooks needed the Met police horse’s head for @tom_watson’s bed”. Tom Watson is the Labour MP who played a significant role in bringing the phone hacking scandal into the open.
And the former deputy leader of the Labour party, Lord Prescott, went into overdrive. Did “Andy Hay-man” [the former senior police officer in charge of the first hacking investigation] lend her this horse?, he asked. Perhaps, he tweeted, the horse was “working undercover for neeeeighbourhood watch”.
Several wags observed that the BBC had assigned correspondent Fiona Trott to cover the story.
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman defended the loan, saying: “When a police horse reaches the end of its working life, Mounted Branch officers find it a suitable retirement home. Whilst responsibility for feeding the animal and paying vet bills passes to the person entrusted with its care, the horse remains the property of the Metropolitan Police Service.
“Retired police horses are not sold on and can be returned to the care of the MPS at any time. In 2008 a retired horse was loaned to Rebekah Brooks. The horse was re-housed with a police officer in 2010.”