Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Messages truth 'may never be known'

The truth about how murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone messages were deleted may never emerge, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.

The News of the World admitted hacking the 13-year-old's mobile phone but it remains unknown whether two missing messages were deleted deliberately or were removed from her message box automatically.

The inquiry into press standards has heard that Milly's mother Sally phoned her daughter repeatedly in March 2002 after she vanished while walking home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.

The teenager's voicemail message was a generic automated response when her message box was full but when a message had been deleted the greeting reverted to her personal greeting.

The Dowlers previously told the inquiry they were given "false hope" by hearing the change of greeting - thinking their daughter might still be alive and had wiped a message.

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry last summer amid claims, first reported in The Guardian, that the now defunct Sunday paper not only hacked Milly's phone but also deleted messages. But in December the Leveson Inquiry was told police actually thought it was "unlikely" the News of the World was responsible for the deletions.

The inquiry heard that because of incomplete phone records and the passage of time, it may never be possible to find out exactly what had happened to the messages. The inquiry also heard that messages on Milly's phone would be deleted after 72 hours.

Metropolitan Police detective chief inspector John MacDonald, investigating what happened, said in a statement: "In summary, we cannot conclusively say whether any voicemails were manually deleted. However, there do appear to have been two messages missing that should have been present when Surrey Police carried out their second recorded download on April 17. It is not known why that happened and it will not now be possible to provide an explanation."

News International, owner of the News of the World, apologised again for hacking the phone which they said was done before the moment of "false hope" the schoolgirl's parents experienced.

In a statement read by David Sherborne, counsel for hacking victims, Mr and Mrs Dowler praised the Guardian for its role in uncovering the tabloid's hacking of phones. They said: "If Surrey Police had prosecuted this activity in 2002 then the position would have been very different and perhaps countless others might also have avoided having their private messages hacked into by the News of the World."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph