A second former senior journalist at the newspaper will also be arrested in the next few days, the Guardian reported.
Coulson was editor between 2003 and 2007 but has denied any knowledge of the phone hacking. He resigned just weeks before the paper’s royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed after admitting intercepting messages on royal aides’ phones.
Coulson later became head of communications for British prime minister David Cameron, but resigned in January.
Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed in 2007 after plotting to intercept voicemail messages left for royal aides. The publisher claimed that this was the full extent of the scandal, blaming a single rogue reporter.
Meanwhile, media mogul James Murdoch backed his beleaguered chief executive and former NOTW editor Rebekah Brooks as he said he shut the paper because it broke readers’ trust.
The News International chief maintained he was confident there was never any phone hacking at the Sun as he spoke of his regret at the demise of the flagship Sunday title.
He refused to confirm or deny whether News International plans to replace the NOTW with a Sunday edition of The Sun.
However, BBC reported that the Sun would become a seven-day newspaper. Media analysts said News International would probably try to hold onto the readership of the NOTW with a new Sunday title.
The company will not be able to use the name Sunday Sun as this is the title of a regional paper in Newcastle. But website domains TheSunOnSunday.co.uk, TheSunOnSunday.com and SunOnSunday.co.uk were all registered on July 5.
A spokeswoman for the company refused to comment on the speculation.
Murdoch said he was sure Brooks had no knowledge that hacking or police payments took place.
“I am satisfied that Rebekah, her leadership of this business and her standard of ethics and standard of conduct throughout her career are very good. Rebekah and I are absolutely committed — and this company is absolutely committed — to doing the right thing. And what that means is about cooperating fully with the police investigations into those alleged practices and into those activities. It’s also about making sure that we are putting into place the processes (so) that we understand what happened.”
The National Union of Journalists said sub-editors at The Sun had walked out in sympathy with News of the World staff.
But a News International spokeswoman said “a few” Sun journalists had left work at the same time as their colleagues, when it was the end of the working day.
Last night, NOTW editor Colin Myler said: “This is the saddest day of my professional career. For 168 years the News of the World has been a huge part of many peoples’ lives. Sundays without this great British institution will not be the same.”
The shock closure came hours after the Royal British Legion dropped the News of the World as its campaigning partner and expressed “revulsion” at allegations that war widows’ phones may have been hacked.
As the day went on, more and more of Britain’s biggest companies — among them Sainsbury’s, O2 and npower — said they were pulling their advertising from the title.
It also emerged that the British government’s decision on whether to wave through Murdoch’s proposed takeover of BSkyB could be delayed by several months after it received around 100,000 responses to its consultation process.
MORE than 4,000 potential phone-hacking victims have been highlighted by Scotland Yard, detectives leading the investigation said.
The sheer number of victims means News International could be left with a breathtaking £120 million compensation bill. This would average out at around £30,000 for each of the 4,000 victims.
Documents handed over by News International contain almost 4,000 names, with hundreds more coming forward to say they had been targeted.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers said officers were seeking to contact all of them “as soon as possible”.
She added: “I understand that many people may be upset and will want to seek information from us. I ask them to be patient and reassure them we will contact them if they are affected — have confidence in us to keep our promise, but also realise it will take time.”
Officers are studying about 11,000 pages of material handed to the Metropolitan Police, said Ms Akers, who is in charge of Operation Weeting. “I have huge sympathy for those who may have been the victims of phone hacking or intrusion into their private lives.
“It must be incredibly distressing to see details of information held, or speculation about what may be held, about them in the media.
“I stand by my commitment that Operation Weeting will contact all those who have some personal contact details found in the documents seized in 2006.”