LONDON (AP) -- British police gave former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks a retired police steed to look after, the force confirmed Tuesday — but they insisted it was not a gift horse.
The Metropolitan Police said the horse was loaned to Brooks — former chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers — in 2008 under a program that allows people to care for retired service animals.
The force said the horse — which was not identified by name — was rehoused with a police officer in 2010. It has since died of natural causes, police said.
Brooks' spokesman, David Wilson, confirmed Brooks had been a "foster carer" for the animal, and said Brooks had paid for the upkeep of the horse while it was stabled at her rural home.
"This is just a charitable thing Rebekah did," he said.
Britain's media ethics inquiry is currently looking into claims of crooked relations between the press and police. On Monday a senior officer said journalists at Murdoch's The Sun had regularly bribed a network of corrupted police and other officials.
Brooks is married to horse trainer Charlie Brooks and has a country home near Chipping Norton, northwest of London, a posh rural enclave whose residents include Prime Minister David Cameron.
Wilson said the couple "share a passion for horses."
Brooks is one of several current and former Murdoch executives who have been arrested and questioned over wrongdoing by the News of the World, which routinely intercepted the voice mails of people in the public eye in a quest for scoops.
Murdoch closed the paper in July amid public revulsion over the revelations.
On Tuesday, a senior British lawmaker told the media ethics inquiry that police had mishandled their first investigation of phone hacking at the tabloid.
Simon Hughes said that if police had taken "robust action" in 2006 when they knew the scale of phone hacking, several victims "might not have suffered as much."
Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat party — the junior member of Britain's coalition government — is among dozens of victims who have received damages from Murdoch's company over phone hacking.