A senior editor described as “very close” to News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks has been suspended by the News Of The World. It is thought Ian Edmondson was given his marching orders from Wapping owing to two key phone hacking cases, those of actress Sienna Miller and Nicola Phillips, assistant to celebrity publicist Max Clifford.

Edmondson, who was originally appointed by Andy Coulson, is by far the most senior figure linked to the hacking scandal by a paper trail. If these allegations bear out it will completely obliterate New International’s “rogue reporter” defence.

The handwritten notes of private investigator Glen Mulcaire, jailed in 2007 for phone hacking, are alleged to show he undertook “electronic intelligence and eavesdropping” under orders from Edmondson. His mid-December suspension tallies with timing of revelations from confidential Metropolitan Police files disclosed to Sienna Miller’s legal team under court order.

Murdoch’s lawyers are on tenterhooks pending the imminent release of further evidence, collected by police in relation to the hacking case of sports agent Sky Andrew. Mr Justice Vos has given the Met a deadline of 12 January.

If other executives are named it would blow the whole case wide open.

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