News International has announced that this Sunday's edition of the News of the World will be the last.

Background: News of the World
Statement: James Murdoch

No adverts will be placed in the newspaper this weekend and the title will close. The Irish News of the World employs 22 full-time staff and around ten people on a part-time basis.

A series of hacking revelations have hit the tabloid in recent months, with parent companies News International and News Corp coming under increasing pressure as a result.

Police said there could be as many as 4,000 victims of phone hacking by the paper, which has been published for 168 years.

Scotland Yard have also confirmed that they are considering the allegation that emails were hacked.

News Corporation chairman James Murdoch issued a statement to staff this afternoon, praising the paper's achievements but condemning the hacking revelations.

'The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account, but it failed when it came to itself.'

The main accusations are that journalists, or their hired investigators, took advantage of often limited security on mobile phone voicemail boxes to listen in to messages left for celebrities, politicians or people involved in major stories.

Disclosure that the practice involved victims of crime came when police said a private detective working for the News of the World in 2002 hacked into messages left on the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler while police were still looking for her.

Since that revelation it has also been claimed that the newspaper accessed the phones of the Soham murder victims' parents, the parents of missing child Madeline McCann and the families of victims killed in the 2005 London bombings.

Families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are also alleged to have been targeted.

It has been widely reported that a number of other papers had also been involved in underhand practices to secure circulation-boosting stories. A lawyer for the Dowler family said News of the World was 'unlucky' because investigator Glenn Mulcaire had kept copious notes.

In 2007, Mulcaire and the paper's then royal correspondent went to jail for hacking.

Police are mining those notes for clues to possible other victims as part of what is described as the biggest investigation in modern British history.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News International's parent company, News Corporation, branded claims of phone hacking at the paper ‘deplorable and unacceptable’.

He has backed Rebekah Brooks to continue as chief executive of News International however, despite the fact that she was the newspaper’s editor while many of the hacks are alleged to have taken place.

Future plans

It remains unclear whether the company will produce a replacement title for the lucrative Sunday market, in which, despite difficult times for newspaper circulations, the News of the World is still selling 2.6 million copies a week.

One widely expected option could see sister paper The Sun expanding to a seven day publication. domain name was registered two days ago by a web design company called Mediaspring. was also registered two days ago.

The British Conservative-led government has already backed a deal for Murdoch's News Corp to buy out the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own, and insists the two cases are not linked.

Formal approval for the deal had been expected within weeks, but it now seems unlikely for months, although officials deny suggestions that they are delaying a decision because of the scandal.

Critics say giving Murdoch full control of Sky television would concentrate too much media power in his hands and risk skewing political debate.

The MP who secured this week's dramatic parliamentary debate into the phone hacking scandal has claimed the closure of the News of the World is an attempt to protect News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

Chris Bryant, who is taking legal action against the newspaper over claims his phone was hacked, said Ms Brooks should have resigned over the initial allegations murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone was hacked when she was editor.

'This strategy of chucking first journalists, then executives and now a whole newspaper overboard isn't going to protect the person at the helm of the ship.'

Elsewhere, the UK labour leader Ed Miliband has said he will call for the Press Complaints Commission to be scrapped and a new 'beefed up' body with effective powers of investigation and enforcement be established instead.