'Hacking made us think Milly was alive'

Published: 22 November, 2011 08:17 IST | Agencies |

Parents of murdered UK schoolgirl tell Leveson inquiry that deletion of voicemails gave false hope, and they believe their own phones were hacked

Parents of murdered UK schoolgirl tell Leveson inquiry that deletion of voicemails gave false hope, and they believe their own phones were hacked

The mother of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler yesterday told the Leveson Inquiry of the moment she was given false hope her daughter was alive after a News of the World (NOTW) phone hacker deleted some of her voicemails.

Sally Dowler described her euphoria after calling the schoolgirl's number and being patched through to her answer phone.

Ordeal: The Dowlers told the court that they had spent three sleepless
nights after finding out her murdered daughter's voicemail had been hacked

The mail box had previously been so full that she would only get an automated message.

"I rang her phone," she said. "It clicked through onto her voicemail, so I heard her voice."

Dowler described shrieking at her husband, "She's picked up her voicemails Bob! She's alive!"

But she was only able to access her daughter's voicemail because News of the World investigator Glenn Mulcaire had hacked into the phone and deleted some messages to make room for more recordings.

Dowler was not to discover the truth until July this year after police reopened the investigation into the News of the World hacking scandal.

Hugh Grant also gave evidence in the hearing yesterday.
pics/ Getty Images

They confirmed that Milly's phone had been targeted. Dowler told Lord Leveson that she did not sleep for three nights after being told what had happened.

She said the revelation was 'terribly difficult to process.'

"You  replay everything in your mind and just think, 'oh, that makes sense now, that makes sense,'" she said.

Shock and anger
The Dowlers were the first in a string of witnesses, including actor Hugh Grant, actress Sienna Miller and author JK Rowling, who will testify to the inquiry set up by UK Prime Minister David Cameron that they were followed, photographed, entrapped and harassed by journalists.

The Dowlers described their shock and anger when a private walk to retrace Milly's steps was secretly photographed by the tabloid.

Dowler said she and her husband Bob had no idea they were being observed as they walked near their home in May 2002, but days later saw the pictures in the NOTW.

"It just felt like such an intrusion into a really, really private grief moment," she said.

The couple later realised that their own phone, as well as their daughter's, had been hacked.

Grant is due to testify in the Royal Courts of Justice about the harassment suffered by his ex, Tinglan Hong, since she became pregnant with the couple's child.

He was to be followed by Rowling, comedian Steve Coogan, Miller and former Formula 1 boss Max Mosley -- whose taste for sadomasochism was revealed to the world in a NOTW sting.

Cameron set up the inquiry in the wake of a still-evolving scandal over phone hacking at the tabloid.
Owner Rupert Murdoch shut down the paper in July after evidence emerged that it had routinely eavesdropped on voice mails in the search for scoops.

More than a dozen journalists and editors have been arrested, and several senior Murdoch executives have resigned over the still-evolving scandal.

'Hacked by non-Murdoch tabloid'
Actor Hugh Grant said that he believes his phone was hacked by Britain's Mail on Sunday tabloid -- the first time he has implicated a newspaper not owned by Rupert Murdoch in the wrongdoing.

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