On July 7, 2011, at the height of Britain's phone-hacking scandal, Rebekah Brooks announced the closure of Britain's biggest-selling newspaper, The News of the World. That evening, she sat with senior colleagues in a restaurant in London's Chelsea Harbour, fighting back tears.
The group - which included James Murdoch, chairman of News Corp's British newspaper arm - vowed to fight on. "It was them against the world," said a former senior News Corp figure with knowledge of the dinner. "They just believed ... it was once more unto the breach. Just one more charge."
Days later, Brooks would be in a London police cell. She was subsequently charged with being part of an illegal conspiracy to hack into phones to find exclusive stories, authorizing illegal payments to public officials and trying to hinder the police investigation.
On Tuesday, the defiance of that dinner paid off. After a near eight-month trial at London's Old Bailey courthouse, 46-year-old Brooks walked hand-in-hand with her husband Charlie from the court building, cleared on all counts. He was also cleared, along with her former personal assistant and the firm's head of security.
Her former lover Andy Coulson, Prime Minister David Cameron's ex-media chief, was found guilty of conspiring to hack phones while he was editor of News of the World. The jury is still deliberating on further charges against Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman.
Brooks' lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw had argued the prosecution failed to produce a "smoking gun." He had called her the most vilified woman in Britain and said the trial had been a "witch hunt."
On hearing the jury's verdict, Brooks took a sharp intake of breath and, visibly shaken, was escorted out of court by a nurse.
The former executive, who had lost weight during the 138-day trial, smiled silently as she and her husband left court and caught a taxi.
It was the latest twist in a career that saw a gardener's daughter rise to become one of the youngest editors of a British national newspaper, charm a string of British prime ministers and attend a pyjama party with the wife of one of them.
In her 14 days in the witness box, she remained calm and controlled through hours of intense questioning, even as the evidence against her pointed to a mixture of naked ambition and vulnerability. She called her private life a "car crash."
News Corp is headed by Rupert Murdoch, 83. Its holdings include Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal, which compete with Reuters News.
Text: Michael Holden and Kate Holton, Reuters
Image: Rebekah Brooks, former News International chief executive, left, accompanied by her husband Charlie Brooks, leaves the Central Criminal Court in London on June 24, 2014.