Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Sally Dowler, whose 13-year-old daughter Milly was killed in 2002, told an inquiry how she had been deceived into thinking Milly was alive after News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid hacked her mobile phone.
Testifying with her husband Bob at an inquiry into media practices, Dowler described how she had become used to an automated message saying Milly’s voice-mail box was full. Then one day she called and got a different response.
“I heard her voice,” Sally Dowler told the inquiry. “I jumped. ‘She’s picked up her voice mails Bob! She’s alive!’ I told my friends, ‘She’s picked up her voice mail, she’s picked up her voicemail.’”
Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective at News of the World, has been accused of hacking into Milly’s voice mails and deleting some messages. The discovery of the hacking on July 4, nine years after Milly’s death, led to the closure of the paper, the resignation of News Corp. executives Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton, and to Prime Minister David Cameron setting up the media inquiry under Judge Brian Leveson.
Dowler also raised the possibility her and Bob’s phones had been hacked, referring to an incident when they were photographed with a long lens while retracing Milly’s final journey. She had called her husband at work to suggest he come home early and walk the path with her.
News Corp.’s U.K. unit said last month that it would pay 3 million pounds ($4.7 million) to settle a claim from the Dowlers. The agreement includes a 2 million-pound payment to the Dowler family and a 1 million-pound donation to charity. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said in a statement that his paper’s behavior was “abhorrent.”
Mulcaire said in a statement that while he had “sincere personal sympathy” for the Dowler family, he never deleted messages on Milly Dowler’s phone and “had no reason to do so.” He said Surrey police, which investigated Milly Dowler’s murder, should disclose relevant documents that will “shed light on the actions he took and the basis of them.”
Graham Shear, a partner at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP who has represented celebrities suing newspapers, told the inquiry that he suspected for years his own and client’s phones were being hacked. He said while he thought the behavior was spread across newspapers, “the News of the World was out in front as the most effective story-gatherer.”
When Shear wrote to police in 2008 and 2009, he was told there was no evidence their phones had been illegally accessed. He has since been told that evidence seized by police from Mulcaire in 2006 showed he was a victim.
Police have arrested at least 17 people since the beginning of the year as part of renewed probes into phone hacking and other offenses, including possible police bribery and computer hacking. Leveson will issue a report as soon as a year from now.
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