• Deleted voicemails gave family false hope
• Hacking interfered with police hunt
• Family lawyer: actions 'heinous and despicable'
The News of the World illegally targeted the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler and her family in March 2002, interfering with police inquiries into her disappearance, an investigation by the Guardian has established.
Milly Dowler disappeared at the age of 13 on her way home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on 21 March 2002.
Detectives from Scotland Yard's new inquiry into the phone hacking, Operation Weeting, are believed to have found evidence of the targeting of the Dowlers in a collection of 11,000 pages of notes kept by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed for phone hacking on behalf of the News of the World.
Their first step was simple, albeit illegal. Paperwork seen by the Guardian reveals that they paid a Hampshire private investigator, Steve Whittamore, to obtain home addresses and, where necessary, ex-directory phone numbers for any families called Dowler in the Walton area. The three addresses Whittamore found could be obtained lawfully on the electoral register. The two ex-directory numbers, however, were "blagged" illegally from British Telecom's confidential records by one of Whittamore's associates, John Gunning, who works from a base in Wiltshire. One of the ex-directory numbers was attributed by Whittamore to Milly's family home.
Then, with the help of its own full-time private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, the News of the World started illegally intercepting mobile phone messages. Scotland Yard is now investigating evidence that the paper hacked directly into the voicemail of the missing girl's own phone. As her friends and parents called and left messages imploring Milly to get in touch with them, the News of the World was listening and recording their every private word.
But the journalists at the News of the World then encountered a problem. Milly's voicemail box filled up and would accept no more messages. Apparently thirsty for more information from more voicemails, the News of the World intervened – and deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance. According to one source, this had a devastating effect: when her friends and family called again and discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Milly herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive. But she was not. The interference created false hope and extra agony for those who were misled by it.
The Dowler family then granted an exclusive interview to the News of the World in which they talked about their hope, quite unaware that it had been falsely kindled by the newspaper's own intervention. Sally Dowler told the paper: "If Milly walked through the door, I don't think we'd be able to speak. We'd just weep tears of joy and give her a great big hug."
The deletion of the messages also caused difficulties for the police by confusing the picture when they had few leads to pursue.It also potentially destroyed valuable evidence.MORE
via: andrewducker who linked to Lenin's Tomb: Predator commentary
...I consider this story sinister down to the last detail. Not just the hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemails; not just listening in to every word spoken by a distressed relative; not just deleting messages when the inbox was full, to make space for more messages; but actually profiting from the brief moment of false hope when people thought that Milly Dowler must have deleted the messages herself and thus be alive, by sending hacks round to conduct an exclusive interview with the unaware family about their hopes. In a depraved way, they circled around the vulnerable, knowingly, cynically awaiting a moment of weakness, brazenly bleeding them dry when the opportunity presented itself, creating some of the torment that they then exploited.
And Surrey police allowed them to do it. They say they had other priorities, that there was a lot of dirty stuff going on. They couldn't even trust their own mobile phones for fear of being hacked, had evidence of News of the World openly breaking the law, and refused to move a muscle against them. As anyone who has followed the 'hacking' scandal knows, there is a long history of evidence of illegal behaviour by the News of the World which the police have refused to act over - doubtless unrelated to the cosy relationship enjoyed by Newscorps executives with senior police officers. The Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service both declined to take up the extensive evidence of criminality. Not only that, but the politicians backed off from any parliamentary inquiry for fear that Murdoch's hacks would delve into their private lives. As a result, this vile organisation continues to be at liberty to not merely pump out toxic propaganda, which would not distinguish it, or defile the senses with endless vulgarisation and degradation, but actually wreck lives in quite a direct way. And the Murdoch empire continues to expand for as long as he doesn't run out of political allies.
It will never stop until there is a comprehensive popular rejection of the Murdoch press, and particularly its two staple tabloids.MORE
So how long is it going to take to put these people in jail and o kick Murdoch out of the country? There should be backlash on this like woah!