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Records show that senior officers — including Paul Stephenson, the current chief of London’s Metropolitan Police — have had numerous meals and meetings with News International executives in the past few years.

The Guardian newspaper, which broke news of the Dowler hacking, said Saturday that senior police officers including Stephenson tried to persuade its editors in 2009 and 2010 to tone down the paper’s coverage of the scandal, saying their stories were inaccurate and exaggerated the scale of the wrongdoing.

Neil Wallis, a former News of the World executive editor arrested and questioned this week about phone hacking, was employed as a part-time PR consultant by the London police force at the time.

Sky News also reported Saturday that Stephenson had stayed for free earlier this year at a health resort that employed Wallis to do its PR.

The police force said in a statement that the stay had been arranged through the facility’s managing director, a family friend, so that Stephenson could undergo therapy as he recovered from surgery. It said the police chief had not known Wallis worked there.

But the web of associations between senior police and Murdoch newspaper executives is growing.

The government says the judge-led inquiry will look into the police decision to hire Wallis, which occurred on Stephenson’s watch.

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who claims his own phone was hacked, said hiring Wallis showed bad judgment and urged Stephenson to resign.

“You’re answerable for your actions and if he’s the commissioner of the Met Police under attack at the time for its inadequacies, of course he should go,” Prescott told Channel 4 News on Saturday.

Murdoch is eager to stop the crisis from further spreading to the United States, where the FBI has opened an inquiry into whether 9/11 victims or their families were also hacking targets of News Corp. journalists.

Newspaper analyst Ken Doctor said the departures of Brooks and Hinton show Murdoch is “trying to build a firewall between the past and the future of News Corp.

Now that News of the World has been shut down, Murdoch’s global media empire includes Fox News, the 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and three British newspapers — The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.