BRUSSELS — Prime Minister David Cameron sought Friday to calm a minor domestic storm by admitting he rode a horse lent by Britain's top police force to the former editor of the now-closed News of the World.
Scotland Yard revealed this week that it had loaned a retired police horse to Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of the NOTW and The Sun and a one-time key aide to the tabloids' owner, Rupert Murdoch.
The news was seen as confirmation of the often cosy relationship between the British media and the police.
Those links are being examined by a public inquiry set up into the phone hacking scandal which led to the NOTW's owners shutting down the tabloid in July.
Cameron, an old Eton schoolfriend of Brooks' racehorse trainer husband, has been drawn into the row, jokingly dubbed "horsegate" by the press.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels following a European summit, the prime minister apologised for allowing a "confusing picture" to emerge over recent days about his connection with the animal.
"I've known Charlie Brooks, the husband of Rebekah Brooks, for over 30 years. He's a good friend and he's a neighbour in the constituency -- we live a few miles apart," Cameron told a press conference.
"I have not been riding with him since the election (in May 2010). Before the election, yes, I did go riding with him. He has a number of horses and, yes, one of them was this former police horse Raisa, which I did ride.
"I am very sorry to hear that Raisa is no longer with us and I think I should probably conclude by saying I don't think I will be getting back into the saddle any time soon."
The Brooks borrowed the horse between 2008 to 2010, when it was rehoused with a police officer. The animal subsequently died of natural causes.
Murdoch has defended his former protege Brooks, who quit as chief executive of News International, the publisher of the NOTW and The Sun, shortly before being arrested over allegations of hacking and police bribery last year.
"Now they are complaining about R Brooks saving an old horse from the glue factory!" the media mogul tweeted on Wednesday.
Brooks has always denied wrongdoing, and has not been charged with a criminal offence.
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