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.