REBEKAH Brooks, the chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International, is set to be questioned under police caution over her role in the phone hacking scandal which brought down the News of the World.
Ms Brooks, who was said to have twice offered to resign and twice been refused, will be asked to explain what she knew about the hacking of mobile phones belonging to celebrities, victims of crime and terrorism and even relatives of soldiers killed in action.
Senior executives at News International are understood to have been warned by the Metropolitan Police that their chief executive will be expected to present herself at a London police station to give a full account of the extent of her actions during the period from 2000 to 2003 when she was editor of the now disgraced paper.
Mrs Brooks will also be asked to clarify whether she authorised payments to police officers in return for information.
"We've been told that Rebekah will be questioned by the police in connection with their enquiries over the conspiracy to hack phones and making payments to officers. There has been contact from the police to prepare the company for this," a senior News International source said.
"There is a lot of anger here that she has seemed to be untouched by the fallout that is seeing good, innocent journalists lose their jobs, but it was always going to be a matter of time before the police turned to her."
The latest revelations will be a severe blow for the 43- year-old, whose career has taken her from a secretary on the News of the World to the helm of one of Britain's most powerful companies.
Her rise saw her cultivate an unparalleled network of contacts in parliament, the media, business and entertainment -- allowing News International to wield enormous -- and to critics excessive -- influence on the political and cultural life of Britain.
The guest list at her wedding to former jockey Charlie Brooks two years ago read like a Who's Who of modern Britain, with Gordon Brown in attendance alongside David Cameron, Cherie Blair, Rupert Murdoch and his son James, Jeremy Clarkson, Guy Ritchie and Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail.
But the charm with which Rebekah Brooks works a room is underpinned by a steely determination evident throughout her rise. She grew up in a comfortably middle-class home in the village of Daresbury -- nestled between the industrial Cheshire towns of Runcorn and Warrington. Her mother, Deborah Wade, still lives in the outskirts of Warrington and can occasionally be seen accompanying her daughter to social events in London.
Rebekah, an only child, attended the now defunct Appleton Hall County Grammar School and it was here, at the age of 14, she decided to become a journalist.
After taking her A-levels she travelled to Paris, where she found a temporary job on the architecture and art journal L'architecture d'aujourd'hui. Her Who's Who entry claims that while in the French capital she attended the Sorbonne. Rather than a full degree, she appears to have enrolled on a six-month culture, literature and language course for foreign students.
Back in the UK, her first break came with the help of a friend of her father, Robert. The friend was one of a number of former Daily Star executives hired by Eddy Shah to run his new tabloid, The Post. He got her a job as a secretary, but she was soon displaying her hunger to make a name for herself as a reporter.
Her then colleague Tim Minogue, now a journalist on Private Eye, said: "She was very bright, very intelligent, quite good fun. But instead of taking memos, she was always bombarding the features editor with ideas for stories. I've never met anyone so ambitious.
"She wanted to be a journalist and she quickly attached herself to reporters to learn how they worked."
One of her early triumphs came when she volunteered to drive 900 miles in 48 hours in her ageing Renault 5 to pick up a crate of an 'aphrodisiac beer' from a Strasbourg brewery, which The Post wanted to give away as a competition prize.
"We thought it funny at the time, but in retrospect it's indicative of her naked, driving ambition," said Mr Minogue.
Later in her career she dressed up as a cleaner in order to get her hands on the first edition of the Sunday Times to obtain details of its scoop on Prince Charles's biography. It was this sort of mix of dogged determination and initiative that helped make her name when, aged 20, she moved to London and joined the News Of the World, first as a secretary and then a feature writer on its Sunday magazine.