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New theory over Milly voicemails

Detectives think it "unlikely" that News International journalists deleted voicemail from a mobile phone belonging to murdered teenager Milly Dowler, a lawyer has told an inquiry into press standards.

Police believe it "most likely" that space was created when messages automatically dropped out of the mailbox, 72 hours after 13-year-old Milly, of Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, vanished in 2002, the Leveson Inquiry heard.

Inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson had last month been told, by a lawyer representing Milly's family, that private detective Glenn Mulcaire, who was employed by defunct News International newspaper, the News of the World, had made deletions.

But three weeks ago Mr Mulcaire denied deleting messages from Milly's phone, after the inquiry heard evidence from her parents, Sally and Bob Dowler.

And a lawyer representing the Metropolitan Police, which is investigating phone hacking by the News of the World, outlined the latest police thinking.

"It is conceivable that other News International journalists deleted the voicemail but the (Metropolitan Police) have no evidence to support that proposition and current inquiries suggest that it is unlikely," Neil Garnham QC told the inquiry.

"The most likely explanation is that existing messages automatically dropped off from the mailbox after 72 hours. The relevant phone network provider has confirmed that this was a standard automatic function of that voicemail box system at the time."

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