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Milly Dowler's phone: there may have been worse - The Ex-Communicator

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July 5th, 2011


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03:42 pm - Milly Dowler's phone: there may have been worse
I don't know if readers in other countries are aware, but a very high-profile child murder case has just concluded in the UK: Milly Dowler. It was revealed by the Guardian yesterday that journalists from one of Britain's foulest tabloids, the News of the World, hacked poor Dowler's phone, before her body had even been found, and incredibly deleted some of her phone messages, making her family think she must still be alive, and potentially destroying evidence.

Rebekah Wade (now Brooks), the editor of the NotW, claims she knew nothing about what was going on. However:
On 14 April 2002 (NotW) published a story about a woman allegedly pretending to be Milly Dowler who had applied for a job with a recruitment agency: "...The agency used the number to contact Milly when a job vacancy arose and left a message on her voicemail … it was on March 27, six days after Milly went missing, that the employment agency appears to have phoned her mobile." (emphasis mine)

So, the NotW published a story in 2002 effectively admitting that they had listened to voice messages left on her phone in the week that she went missing.

Furthermore on 12 April of this year Hugh Grant (yes, the daft actor) published an interview with a NotW journalist in the New Statesman. As follows:
Hugh Grant: Ah . . . I think that was one of the questions asked last week at one of the parliamentary committees. They asked Yates [deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police] if it was true that he thought that the NoW had been hacking the phones of friends and family of those girls who were murdered . . . the Soham murder and the Milly girl.
Journalist: Yeah. Yeah. It's more than likely. Yeah . . . It was quite routine.

Further along in the interview the journalist says he regrets that Dowler's phone was hacked. So given this evidence, which is in the public domain, I do not think it credible that Wade was unaware.

What I think most likely is that she will be thrown to the wolves. Private Eye think she is planning to leave public life 'on family grounds' before Murdoch can sack her.

But to my mind it is like the Abu Ghraib scandal. A woman, who is admittedly in both cases a very nasty piece of work, is put forward as a scapegoat. She loses her job, maybe does jail time, but the overall system of collusion - in this case between the Prime Minister, Rupert Murdoch, and the British police - remains intact. Noses are reinserted in the trough with barely a pause.

My hope is that - by giving a face to the abuses, by personalising the wrong that is being done - this will not fade away, and British people will start to reject the awful awful newspaper culture which we endure. Or perhaps it will take just one more push...

There is a metafilter thread about this, and I was particularly struck by this exchange:

Robert Peston (BBC news editor, on twitter):"News Int execs tell me they fear there may have been worse examples of NOTW hacking than that of Milly Dowler's phone. The mind reels"

Len: What's worse than hacking into Dowler's voicemail while she's still missing, deleting messages and therefore possibly obstructing the investigation, thereby giving her family false hope, and then exploiting that by getting them to give an exclusive interview to the paper?

Skeptic: I guess that the answer to that question can be given in two words: Madeline. McCann.

(30 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:azdak
Date:July 5th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
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Dear God.
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From:communicator
Date:July 5th, 2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
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You are in Austria? It sounds like it hasn't been reported there? I think it might produce some kind of pubic backlash against the worst of the media.
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From:londonkds
Date:July 5th, 2011 03:04 pm (UTC)
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Particularly dreadful since the Murdoch tabloids were at the very same time whipping up anti-"paedo" hysteria that led to vigilante attacks on innocent people. But at the same time they were actively obstructing the investigation into the actual sex murder of a child.
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From:communicator
Date:July 5th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)
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Yes, that's a good point. They literally have no shame.
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From:sheenaghpugh
Date:July 5th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
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It all reminds me irresistibly of the time Rex Harrison, at a complicated point in his life, was being pursued down the street by a hack, and the conversation went:

HACK: Mr Harrison, Mr Harrison, I work for the News of the World.
REX (after looking him up and down in a leisurely fashion): Yes, you're just the sort of little shit who would.
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From:communicator
Date:July 5th, 2011 05:22 pm (UTC)
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Nowadays they probably wouldn't admit it
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From:espresso_addict
Date:July 5th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
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I'd managed to miss all this. (I've hardly turned on a television in weeks.) I agree it's sad when a prominent woman becomes the obvious sacrificial goat, but I'm not going to lose sleep over Ms Wade. And if it's true that some journalist actively impeded the investigation in that fashion, everyone who colluded in it deserves prosecution.
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From:communicator
Date:July 5th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
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Yes. I don't defend her, but if they just make it about her then things will just continue as before.
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From:kalypso_v
Date:July 5th, 2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
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The advertisers have started pulling out... we could be into a Hillsborough level of long-term revenge.
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From:communicator
Date:July 5th, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
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From:storme
Date:July 5th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
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Good god, I had no idea about any of this until today (it's been a hectic few weeks and my mood has not been fit to cope with the usual horrors of the news).

Gyah. I hope the advertisers are pulling out of all NI properties, not just NotW.
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From:communicator
Date:July 6th, 2011 06:22 am (UTC)
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I almost wonder if the NotW is finished. But I suppose it will blow over like these things always do.
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From:hano
Date:July 6th, 2011 12:10 pm (UTC)
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two words: Madeline. McCann.
And live on the one o'clock news it's emerging that that's exactly what they did. It'll be interesting to see if the other tabloids take any flak - they've all been at it for years, one of Fleet Street's grubbier secrets to which they're all complicit.
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From:communicator
Date:July 6th, 2011 12:28 pm (UTC)
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Yes. I just watched PMQ while I was at the gym and I think Cameron is in trouble.
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From:tehomet
Date:August 14th, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC)
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JFC, that's awful.

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