UK police: Dowler phone hacked but deletions unclear

Journalists on the News of the World tabloid did hack the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler but there is no conclusive evidence they deleted messages

UK police: Dowler phone hacked but deletions unclear

World Bulletin/News Desk

Journalists on the News of the World tabloid did hack the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler but there is no conclusive evidence they deleted messages which gave her parents false hope she was still alive, British police said on Wednesday.

It was a Guardian report last year that journalists on Rupert Murdoch's paper had accessed and deleted voicemails on Dowler's phone in 2002 which provoked the scandal that has embroiled the media magnate and his News Corp empire.

In the ensuing outcry, Murdoch shut the 168-year-old News of the World, dropped a $12 billion bid for satellite broadcaster BSkyB, and gave 2 million pounds to the Dowler family.

However, last December the Leveson inquiry into press ethics was told the messages might have been automatically erased and the Guardian admitted that it was not clear whether the News of the World reporters had manually deleted them as first claimed.

In a statement read to the inquiry on Wednesday, Detective Chief Inspector John Macdonald confirmed the hacking had taken place.

"This report into the findings of the MPS (Metropolitan Police) investigation does not go into detail about Milly's phone being hacked," Macdonald's statement said.

"It is public knowledge that this is the case and I can confirm that there is evidence to support the fact that it happened."

But he said evidence about deleted messages was inconclusive, and there was nothing to suggest that journalists had tried to access Dowler's voicemail before her mother's "false hope moment".

Sally Dowler has told the inquiry of her excitement when she called her missing daughter's voicemail and had been able to leave a message in the previously full inbox, leading her to think that Milly had deleted some old messages.

Macdonald said he did not rule out the suggestion that journalists has deleted messages and that two messages that were missing.

"Whilst a reasonable understanding of the issues and events has been developed as a result of the MPS investigation, reaching a definitive conclusion is not, and may never be possible," he said.

The lawyer for News International, Murdoch's British newspaper arm, repeated their apology for the hacking.

Dowler's lawyer David Sherborne said the police report had changed nothing, rejecting suggestions it would have meant there should have been no inquiry and no News of the World closure.

He also criticised the police for failing to address phone-hacking even though they had been aware of it at the time of the hunt for Dowler.

"If Surrey Police had prosecuted this activity in 2002, then the position would have been very different and perhaps countless others might also have been avoided having their private messages hacked into by the News of the World," he said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Mayıs 2012, 11:08

Muhammed Öylek

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