A FORMER Sunderland Echo reporter is reported to have been arrested in connection with the News International phone hacking investigation.
A 31-year-old woman - understood to be Bethany Usher, ex-Echo crime reporter who later worked for News of the World - was arrested by Northumbria Police detectives.
Operation Weeting officers said a woman was being held in connection with conspiring to intercept communications.
The suspect becomes the 17th arrest under Weeting and the first since sports journalist Raoul Simons, 35, was held in September.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “At 06.35am on Wednesday 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 emails from News International.
Detectives investigating phone hacking have arrested a series of high-profile figures, including former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson.
Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, who is from Sunderland, was arrested in April and has since issued a statement insisting that he took “no part” in phone hacking.
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 £3 million 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 hacked