Milly hacking 'known about in 2002'
The police force that investigated the murder of Milly Dowler has been accused of knowing in 2002 that the schoolgirl's phone was hacked.
Claims were made by The Independent newspaper that detectives involved with the case were informed nine years ago that the News of the World (NotW) had accessed her voicemails, but that they took no action.
Allegations that the murdered teenager's phone messages were hacked only emerged publicly in early July this year. Around three weeks later it emerged that in 2002 Surrey Police had removed a detective from the probe into her disappearance after the officer passed on details of the case to a friend.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is currently investigating an allegation that a Surrey officer passed on information about the search for Milly to the NotW in 2002.
The Dowler family's solicitor, Mark Lewis, said: "Questions need to be asked why the police seemed keener on selling newspapers than solving crimes. It seems that when the public dialled 999 the police dialled NotW."
A spokeswoman for Surrey Police said: "In 2002, Surrey Police's priority was to find Milly and then to find out what had happened to her and to bring her killer to justice. Clearly there was a huge amount of professional interaction between Surrey Police and the media throughout that time.
"At this time, we must respect the primacy of the Metropolitan Police Service investigation into phone hacking to which we are providing all relevant information about the Milly Dowler case. To prevent prejudicing this inquiry, or any prosecutions which may result from it, we are unable to put all the facts into the public domain at this stage.
"Any detail, such as Surrey Police's knowledge or any contact with the News of the World in 2002, could be highly relevant to that investigation and could potentially prejudice it. Therefore it would be inappropriate for us to make any further comment on this at this time."
She said that the force itself had referred the leak allegations to the IPCC so that a "thorough and wholly independent investigation" could be carried out.
Surrey Police maintained that there was no evidence to suggest the detective constable had passed on information to a journalist, instead he had been talking to a retired police officer friend.