SCOTLAND Yard lent a retired police horse to the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, it has emerged.
The former Sun and News of the World editor was lent the horse in 2008, the year after Clive Goodman, who worked for her as royal editor of the News of the World, was jailed for phone-hacking along withe the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch visited Mrs Brooks's home in the Cotswolds to check she had suitable facilities and was a competent rider before the horse went there.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police pointed out that it is routine for retired Mounted Branch horses to be loaned out to members of the public at the end of their working lives, but the arrangement is likely to raise fresh questions about the Met's relationship with Mrs Brooks.
The news comes a day after the Leveson Inquiry was told that Mrs Brooks was briefed by a senior Met officer on the progress of the original phone-hacking inquiry and even consulted on how far she thought the investigation should go.
Mrs Brooks, who is married to the former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, kept the horse at her home in the Cotswolds for two years before giving it back to the Metropolitan Police in 2010.
It was then found a new home in Norfolk with a serving police officer.
Dave Wilson, Mrs Brooks's spokesman, said: "It's well known by people in the horse world that the Met looks for homes for horses once they retire. Rebekah took on a horse and effectively acted as a foster parent for it for a year or so.
"The Met horse team comes out to make sure your facilities are right and proper. It's just a way of giving a temporary home to a horse that has had a distinguished service in the Met. It went off to a retirement paddock in Norfolk once it couldn't be ridden any more."
At the time Mrs Brooks took on the horse, she was editor of The Sun, but had given evidence to a committee of MPs five years earlier admitting that the News of the World had paid policemen when she was editor of the Sunday paper between 2000 and 2003.
By the time she gave the horse back to the Met she was chief executive of News International and the Met was facing calls to re-open its investigation into phone hacking following the disclosure that thousands of names of potential victims appeared in Mulcaire's notebooks.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "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 to its care at its new home, 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 MPS horse was loaned to Rebekah Brooks. The horse was subsequently re-housed with a police officer in 2010."
The Metropolitan Police website states that: "At the end of the police horse's working life the animal is re-homed at one of many identified establishments who have previously contacted the Mounted Branch with a view to offering a home.
"The Mounted Branch is looking for suitable homes for retired horses, that is homes where the horse will not be ridden. Anyone in the southeast of England offering such a home will be considered first."