The final edition of the News of the World has rolled off the presses, heralding its exit from newsstands after 168 years.

The last-ever front page tabloid carried the headline: ‘Thank You & Goodbye’ as the presses began to roll on some five million copies at 9.50pm.

The newspaper's editor Colin Myler led his journalists out of the building for the final time to rapturous applause and cheering and paid tribute to his 'professional' team and the paper's readers.

The shock decision to close the paper came after it became engulfed by a string of increasingly damaging phone hacking allegations.

In a full-page editorial, the paper apologised for hacking phones.

It said: 'We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards.

'Quite simply, we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry.

'There is no justification for this appalling wrongdoing. No justification for the pain caused to victims, nor for the deep stain it has left on a great history.

'Yet when this outrage has been atoned, we hope history will eventually judge us on all our years.'

It went on to praise the 'skill, dedication, honour and integrity" of the staff of the paper now bearing 'the pain for the past misdeeds of a few others'.

Earlier, the paper's deputy political editor Jamie Lyons summed up the feelings among reporters.

‘At my NOTW desk for the last time. Let's go out with a bang,’ the 37-year-old wrote on Twitter.

The reporter, who has held his current position for five years, said there was a ‘mixture of sadness and enormous pride’ in the paper's newsroom.

‘I think everyone here is proud to have worked for what we believe is the greatest paper in the country and for a team of undoubtedly the best journalists on Fleet Street,’ he said.

‘It's not really the day to feel bitter or angry. I think we are all focusing on playing our part in getting out the last edition of the paper we are so proud to have worked for.’

The Irish News of the World employs 22 full-time staff and around ten people on a part-time basis.

Chairman of News Corporation Rupert Murdoch is expected to arrive in London this weekend to tackle the escalating crisis that has engulfed his multi-national media company.

As the paper went to press, Mr Murdoch continued to give his full backing to embattled News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, insisting she had his 'total' support.

'We already apologised,' he told reporters in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he has been attending a media conference.

'We've been let down by people ... the paper let down its readers', he said.

Ms Brooks, a former editor of the paper, has remained defiant as the scandal engulfing the tabloid gathered pace in recent weeks.

Resisting calls for her resignation, she has told MPs she had 'no knowledge whatsoever' of hacking when she edited the Sunday paper.

Ms Brooks, who yesterday confirmed in a letter to News International employees that she is not in charge of the company's investigation into alleged phone hacking, met with News of the World staff and defended her decision not to resign.

In a recording leaked to Sky News, she said she wanted to ‘fight and get this paper's reputation back’.

Ms Brooks alleged that her voicemail was one of the most frequently accessed by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in January 2007 for hacking into royal voicemail.

Meanwhile, an unnamed 63-year-old has become the third person to be arrested by police officers investigating corruption and phone hacking allegations.

Scotland Yard said he was arrested in Surrey and he has been bailed to return to a London police station in October.

The newspaper's former editor, Andy Coulson, was released on bail last night after being questioned for nine hours.

The Sunday tabloid's ex-royal editor Clive Goodman was also questioned at a separate police station over claims officers were bribed.

As Mr Coulson, 43, left Lewisham police station yesterday, he said: ‘There is an awful lot I would like to say, but I can't at this time.’

Both he and Mr Goodman, 53, who was arrested in a dawn swoop on his Surrey home, were released on police bail until October.

The Guardian reported that Scotland Yard was probing claims that a member of staff deleted ‘millions of emails’ from an internal archive on two occasions at the end of January.

Scotland Yard refused to comment on the allegations, and a News International spokeswoman said: ‘This assertion is rubbish. We adopted a documented email retention policy in line with our US parent's records management policy. We are co-operating actively with police and have not destroyed evidence.’

Church of England wades into row

The Church of England has entered the row over phone hacking today with a threat to pull nearly £4m in investments from News Corporation if it fails to hold ‘senior managers’ to account over the scandal.

The Church's ethical investment advisory group said it had written to News Corp describing the behaviour of the News of the World as ‘utterly reprehensible and unethical’.

The closure of the newspaper, while welcome, was not a 'sufficient response' to revelations of malpractice at the newspaper, the group said.

Its chairman John Reynolds, has insisted that the board of News Corp takes ‘all necessary measures’ to instil investor confidence in the ethical and governance standards of News Corp.