UK’s News of the World hacked murdered girl’s phone, says lawyer
A private detective working for
Britain’s News of the World tabloid hacked into voicemail
messages left on the mobile phone of a murdered schoolgirl while
police were searching for her, a lawyer for her family said on
He said the family planned to sue the paper, owned by News
International, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp .
The disclosure comes days after British government gave its
backing for News Corp to buy out British pay-TV group BSkyB,
rejected complaints the move would give Murdoch too much power
The government has announced a final consultation period
until July 8 to consider further undertakings to guarantee the
editorial independence of BSkyB’s Sky News.
Five people have been arrested by detectives investigating
assertions that journalists on the News of the World hacked the
phones of members of the royal family, politicians, celebrities
and sports stars to listen to their voicemail messages.
The paper said in April it would admit liability and pay
compensation in eight cases, although lawyers say many more
suspected victims will seek compensation.
Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old schoolgirl from Surrey, south
England, disappeared in March 2002, prompting nationwide search.
Her bones were found six months later in a wood. Last month a
former nightclub doorman was convicted of her murder.
“Who was at the News of the World thinking it was
appropriate to try and hack into the phone of a missing young
girl?” Lewis told BBC television.
“It is distress heaped upon tragedy to learn that the News
of the World had no humanity at such a terrible time.
“The fact that they were prepared to act in such a heinous
way that could have jeopardised the police investigation and
give them false hope is despicable,” he added.
Opposition Labour politician and former deputy prime
minister John Prescott said it was not too late for the
government to hold up the News Corp-BSkyB deal.
“These people are not fit and proper persons to be running
our major media,” he told BBC radio.
The government has said the hacking investigation will not
affect its decision on BSkyB, saying that was related solely to
the issue of media plurality.
A spokesperson for News International said it had been
cooperating with the police investigation.
“This particular case is clearly a development of great
concern and we will be conducting our own inquiries as a result.
We will obviously co-operate fully with any police request on
this should we be asked,” the spokesperson said.
Who’s who in the hacking scandal
Below are some of the key figures in the saga.
Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, the world’s largest news conglomerate, which he founded.
News Corp’s operations span television, film, newspapers and advertising. Businesses include U.S. cable network Fox, and The Wall Street Journal newspaper, as well as some of Britain’s best-selling papers: The Sun, News of the World and The Times.
Australian-born Murdoch was ranked by Forbes magazine as the 13th most powerful person in the world in 2010 and the 117th richest in the world, with a net worth of over $6 billion.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1985 so that he could buy American television stations.
Murdoch’s News Corp is currently seeking to buy out British satellite broadcaster BSkyB, a deal expected to cost at least $15 billion, and final government approval for the deal is expected shortly.
A man who easily commands audiences with world leaders, Murdoch’s newspapers in particular are believed to wield enormous political influence. In 1992, The Sun declared “It’s the Sun Wot Won It” after it campaigned vigorously against Labor leader Neil Kinnock in an election that delivered an unexpected Conservative victory.
Chief executive of News International, the British newspaper arm of News Corp.
Born Rebekah Wade, the 43-year-old has worked for the Murdoch empire since the age of 20, joining Sunday tabloid the News of the World as a secretary before moving to The Sun daily. In 2000, she was appointed editor of the News of the World, making her, at the time, the youngest ever editor of a British national newspaper.
She moved on to edit The Sun in 2003, becoming its first female editor, and spent six years at the helm before her appointment as chief executive of News International.
Brooks rarely gives interviews. In 2003, she told a parliamentary committee her newspaper had paid police for information although News International later said this was not company practice.
Brooks, formerly married to a star of television soap opera “Eastenders,” is considered one of Rupert Murdoch’s most trusted executives and is politically well-connected. She and her second
husband, a former racehorse trainer, are reported to be regular guests at Prime Minister David Cameron’s Oxfordshire home.
On Tuesday, she said she was “sickened” at allegations the News of the World had hacked into the voicemail messages of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, later found murdered, in 2002. The Guardian newspaper said an investigator for the paper had also deleted some messages to make room for more, misleading police and the girl’s family into thinking she was alive.
“I hope that you all realize it is inconceivable that I knew or, worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations,” she wrote in a memo to staff, adding that she would not resign.
The prime minister became linked to the scandal after he appointed as his director of communications Andy Coulson, who had been News of the World editor during the time that most phone-hacking is alleged to have taken place at the tabloid.
Cameron said that if allegations were true that a private investigator hacked into the phone of missing teenager Milly Dowler, “this is a truly dreadful act.”
Coulson resigned as News of the World editor in 2007 after one of his reporters and a private investigator were convicted of hacking into phones of members of the royal family, although Coulson insisted he knew nothing about the phone hacking.
He then resigned as Cameron’s communications director earlier this year after fresh allegations surfaced that connected journalists at the paper to a spate of other attempts to hack the voicemail of politicians and celebrities. He said media coverage of the scandal made it impossible to do his job.
Hunt is the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport. He has final say over whether News Corp should be allowed to buy out BSkyB after Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of the decision-making power late last year.
Cable lost the right to adjudicate on media deals after he was taped “declaring war” on Rupert Murdoch.
Hunt last week rejected complaints the News Corp buyout of BSkyB would give Murdoch too much power and influence, effectively clearing the way for the multi-billion-dollar deal.
However, he announced a final consultation period until July 8 to consider further undertakings designed to guarantee the editorial independence of Sky News.
CLIVE GOODMAN and GLENN MULCAIRE
Clive Goodman, who reported on the royal family for the News of the World, was jailed for four months after writing stories based on illegal phone taps carried out by private detective Glenn Mulcaire for which he paid with cash.
Mulcaire, who was jailed for six months, was also paid an annual retainer of 100,000 pounds ($160,000) by News of the World for other investigative services.
Aged 13, she went missing on her way home from school in the London suburb of Walton on March 21, 2002. Despite a huge police hunt and massive publicity, her body was found only six months later. This year, convicted killer Levi Bellfield was tried for and, on June 23, found guilty of the teenager’s murder.
Timeline of hacking revelations
British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the alleged hacking of a murdered schoolgirl’s voicemail by the News of the World on Tuesday, part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
The scandal comes at a time when News Corp is pursuing a takeover of UK pay-TV firm BSkyB , which will be its biggest ever acquisition costing at least $15 billion if it goes ahead.
Here is a timeline of events in the long-running scandal:
2000 — Rebekah Wade is appointed editor of Britain’s best-selling Sunday tabloid News of the World. She begins a controversial campaign to name and shame alleged paedophiles, leading to some alleged offenders being terrorised by angry mobs, and also campaigns for public access to the Sex Offenders Register, which eventually comes into law as “Sarah’s Law”.
2002 — Teenager Milly Dowler disappears in Walton on Thames, Surrey in March. Her remains are found in September.
2003 — Wade becomes editor of daily tabloid The Sun, sister paper to the News of the World. She tells a parliamentary committee her newspaper has paid police for information although News International later says this is not company practice.
November 2005 — News of the World publishes story on Prince William’s knee injury. This prompts complaints by royal staff members about voicemail messages being intercepted. The complaints spark a police inquiry.
January 2007 — The News of the World’s royal affairs editor Clive Goodman is jailed for four months.
– Goodman listened to voicemail messages left for the press secretary of Prince Charles and also for two officials who worked for his sons, princes William and Harry.
– His accomplice, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, is given a six-month prison term. Goodman and Mulcaire admitted in November 2006 to plotting to unlawfully intercept communications while Mulcaire also pleaded guilty to five other charges of unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages.
– After the two were sentenced, News of the World editor Andy Coulson resigns, saying he took “ultimate responsibility”.
June 2009 — Rebekah Wade becomes CEO of News International. Wade marries Charlie Brooks and becomes Rebekah Brooks.
July 2009 — The left-leaning Guardian newspaper says News of the World reporters, with the knowledge of senior staff, had illegally accessed messages from the mobile phones of many celebrities and politicians while Coulson was editor.
– Actors Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, Australian model Elle Macpherson and former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott were among those targeted, the Guardian says.
September 2009 — Les Hinton, chief executive of Dow Jones and previously the executive chairman of Murdoch’s newspaper arm in Britain, tells a committee of legislators any problems with phone hacking was limited to one, already well publicised case, reiterating what he told the committee in 2007. He said they had carried out a wide review and found no new evidence.
February 2010 – The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee says in a report it is “inconceivable” that managers at the News of the World did not know about the practice, which the legislators said was more widespread than the Sunday newspaper had previously admitted.
September 2010 — MPs ask parliament’s standards watchdog to begin a new investigation into the phone hacking allegations surrounding the News of the World and its former editor Andy Coulson, by then Prime Minister David Cameron’s media chief.
– The powerful cross-party Committee on Standards and Privileges will also look at whether the tabloid’s journalists tried to access MPs’ private messages on their mobile phones.
– Pressure for a new investigation grew after the New York Times had suggested News of the World reporters “routinely” sought to hack phones, often with the help of private investigators.
January 2011 — British police open a new investigation into allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World. Police had said in July 2009 there was no need for a probe into the hacking claims.
– The News of the World announces it has sacked senior editor Ian Edmondson after an internal inquiry into his conduct.
– Andy Coulson resigns as Cameron’s communications chief over allegations of phone hacking at the newspaper he used to edit, a move that could embarrass the prime minister and complicate News Corp’s bid to buy BSkyB.
April 2011 – News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and Edmondson are arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept mobile phone messages. They are released on bail.
– The News of the World admits its role in the phone hacking.
June 2011 — Levi Bellfield is found guilty of murdering schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
July 2011 – A lawyer for Milly Dowler’s family, says he learned from police that the schoolgirl’s voicemail messages had been hacked while police were searching for her.