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Police 'did not probe Milly claim'

Police failed to investigate a claim by a senior News of the World executive that the tabloid had listened to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's voicemail while she was still believed missing, a jury has heard.

Former managing editor at the Sunday red top Stuart Kuttner contacted Surrey Police on the afternoon of April 13, 2002 to inform them of a message left by a recruitment agency in Telford on the 13-year-old's phone, the Old Bailey was told.

It is claimed Kuttner, who was not in court today due to ill health, told an officer that the newspaper had gained access to Milly's mobile number, obtained from school friends.

Later that Saturday, chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck confirmed that the newspaper "had access" to Milly's voicemail and was in possession of her pin after he was asked how the paper obtained the new lead.

Giving evidence as a witness , Surrey Police head of communications Sarah McGregor told the court there had been no mention of NotW hacking phones at a meeting the following week for those working on the case.

Jonathan Caplan QC, defending Kuttner, asked her : "When you were told on April 13 that Milly's voicemail had been accessed by News of the World, that did not cause you to refer it to anybody, that maybe this should be investigated?"

Ms McGregor replied: "I'm not a detective and I was not working as an investigating officer - it would be their decision."

Milly went missing on her way home from school in Walton-on-Thames on March 21, 2002, and was found murdered in September that year.

Former editor of the NotW Rebekah Brooks was in Dubai on April 13 but there was alleged contact between her and colleagues, including her then deputy Andy Coulson.

The court heard that the newspaper's first edition for the following day quoted the voicemail message left by Mondays recruitment service, which said: "We're ringing because we've got some interviews starting, can you call me back? Thank you, bye bye."

It was thought that Milly might have registered with the agency and that the message might help locate her.

But police told the NotW that the message was thought to have been left by a "professional hoaxer", and later editions took the quote out.

The court heard that police had previously discovered bogus messages after obtaining an order allowing access to Milly's voicemail.

The hoaxer had contacted Milly's mother to wish her a happy birthday and been captured on CCTV in Telford, Ms McGregor said.

But after officers spoke to Mondays, they found Milly was not on the company's books and concluded the message had been intended for another woman.

Ms McGregor said it was thought that either the woman or the agency had written Milly's number down by mistake.

When this was put to NotW reporter Ricky Sutton, he allegedly replied: "This is not true, it's inconceivable. There's other messages on her phone."

Mr Sutton also claimed that Milly had travelled north and registered with Mondays for a job in a factory, adding: "We know this for a fact, we are absolutely 100% certain."

Ms McGregor told the court that Kuttner had said to a colleague that the NotW had Milly's pin, which he denies.

Mr Kaplan suggested Ms McGregor had mixed up two phone calls - one from his client to her colleague where there was no mention of a pin, and one where Thurlbeck told her the NotW was in possession of the pin.

Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex; Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; and Coulson, 45, from Charing in Kent, all deny conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3, 2000 and August 9, 2006.

Thurlbeck has already admitted phone hacking.

Brooks is accused of a further two counts of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office - one between January 1, 2004 and January 31, 2012 and the other between February 9, 2006 and October 16, 2008 - linked to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials.

She also faces two allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - one with her former personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, between July 6 and 9, 2011; and a second with her husband, Charles Brooks, former News International head of security Mark Hanna and others between July 15 and July 19, 2011.

Coulson is facing two allegations that he conspired with former NotW royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, from Addlestone in Surrey, and other unknown people to commit misconduct in public office - between August 31, 2002 and January 31, 2003, and between January 31 and June 3, 2005.

The trial was adjourned to tomorrow at 10am.


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