Sunderland journalist bailed after arrest in hacking inquiry

Bethany Usher pictured during her time at the Echo.
Bethany Usher pictured during her time at the Echo.
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A FORMER Echo reporter has been quizzed by police investigating phone hacking at the News of the World.

Ex-St Anthony’s School pupil Bethany Usher was arrested at her Ashbrooke home early yesterday and released on bail until March.

The married 31-year-old, now a senior journalism lecturer with Teesside University’s School of Arts and Media, joined the Echo after graduating from Leeds University.

She worked as crime reporter before leaving to join The People, then moving to the News of the World.

She is the second Sunderland-born reporter with the now-defunct tabloid to be interviewed in connection with the hacking inquiry.

Chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck was arrested in April.

Usher was the 17th person to be arrested by officers working for Scotland Yard’s Operation Weeting.

The Metropolitan Police issued a statement yesterday, confirming a 31-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages and was being interviewed at a police station in the Northumbria force area.

Professor Gerda Roper, dean of the school of arts and media at Teesside University, said no comment would be made while a police investigation was ongoing.

While at the Echo, Usher was named trainee journalist of the year at the North East Press Awards in 2005.

In January 2006, she was arrested after applying for a job at Buckingham Palace to work undercover for the News of the World, on a story about security there. No further action was taken.

Usher has referred several times to the Leveson Inquiry on her Twitter page, @bethanyusher Usher, where she describes herself as a “journalist, academic and all round good egg” and has now been deactivated.

One tweet on Tuesday, directed at an ex-News of the World features editor who was giving evidence, read: “For god sake Paul McMullen, shut your sickening trap.”

Phone hacking 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.

Twitter: @sunderlandecho