UK

Phone Hacking Trial: Rebekah Brooks Smirks As She Leaves Court After Not Guilty Verdict

24/06/2014 13:15 BST | Updated 24/06/2014 14:59 BST

Rebekah Brooks has been acquitted after a lengthy and convoluted trial centring on illegal activity at the heart of Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire.

Leaving court today, Brooks was snapped smirking at the awaiting horde of cameras after she was cleared of conspiring to intercept communications and of counts of bribing officials and obstructing police.

READ MORE: Cameron's Former Spin Doctor Convicted Of Phone Hacking

Media queen bee or victim of a witch-hunt - in the end, 11 ordinary members of the public decided in favour of the Ex-News International chief executive.

The prosecution said she masked her true identity to present "carefully scripted" evidence, saying she was more than capable of spinning a line to the court.

But her legal team said she had been vilified in the media and treated with such "cruelty and vitriol" that she could hardly expect a fair trial.

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As she gave evidence in the witness box, the pressure was all too evident and Brooks broke down in tears as she described her failed attempts to start a family with her first husband, actor Ross Kemp.

But when it came to phone hacking, Brooks remained calm and composed, stating she did not know it was illegal when she was editor of the News of the World but it would have been a "serious breach of privacy".

She also talked at length about her proudest achievement at the NotW - Sarah's Law. The NotW campaign led to tougher measures to protect children from predatory paedophiles in the community, like Roy Whiting who abducted and murdered Sarah Payne.

She was found not guilty of conspiring to hack phones, pay public officials and then to try to hide or destroy the evidence.

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The 46-year-old mother-of-one was born into an ordinary family in Warrington, Cheshire. Her father was a gardener and her mother a personal assistant.

She was grammar school-educated before working her way up from unpaid experience on a local paper to deputy editor of NotW by the time she was 27.

Despite having high-profile friends like Tony Blair, her personal life was, in her own words, a "car crash" for a long time.

She had a turbulent relationship with her first husband, Kemp, which on one occasion landed her in a police cell.

They married in 2002 and divorced in 2009, before she met her current husband, Charlie Brooks. Meanwhile, she started a relationship with colleague Andy Coulson in 1998 which continued on and off for some years.

Her attempt to start a family with Kemp through fertility treatment came to nothing and their marriage fell apart because of the pressures of their respective careers, she said.

But the couple remained friends after their divorce and Kemp was one of those she turned to at the height of the hacking crisis in 2011.

Having spent many years living in London, Brooks and her husband now live in a converted barn in Oxfordshire.

She eventually became a mother to a baby girl through a surrogate pregnancy. Scarlett was born prematurely in 2012, just weeks before the Brooks' home was raided by police.

Brooks was the main focus of public rage after it emerged that the newspaper she edited had hacked into the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Despite racing the top of her profession, the scandal has now left Brooks's career in tatters.