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International Disgust Over News Corp. Tabloid Hacking Into Murder Victim’s Voice Mail

Reported by Ellen - July 7, 2011 -

Just when you think Rupert Murdoch’s brand of sleazy taboidism can’t go any lower, it does. In the latest development in the long-simmering scandal over News Corp.’s News of the World newspaper’s phone hacking, it has now been revealed that the Murdoch paper hacked into the voice mail of missing teen Milly Dowler – leading her family to wrongly believe she was still alive and possibly destroying valuable evidence in the criminal investigation. Previously, it had been thought that all the hacking victims were public figures: celebrities, royals, athletes, etc. But news of this latest hacking has evoked widespread revulsion, new questions about who knew what and when, loss of advertisers, a drop in the stock price of News Corp., an emergency session in Parliament and questions as to whether the planned acquisition of British Sky Broadcasting will still be permitted. But wait, there’s more. In a newer development, several other crime victims appear also to have been victimized by News Corp. hacking.

As The Guardian reported on Monay, July 4, 2011, 13 year-old Milly Dowler disappeared in England in 2002.

With the help of its own full-time private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, the News of the World started illegally intercepting mobile phone messages. Scotland Yard is now investigating evidence that the paper hacked directly into the voicemail of the missing girl's own phone. As her friends and parents called and left messages imploring Milly to get in touch with them, the News of the World was listening and recording their every private word.

But the journalists at the News of the World then encountered a problem. Milly's voicemail box filled up and would accept no more messages. Apparently thirsty for more information from more voicemails, the paper intervened – and deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance. According to one source, this had a devastating effect: when her friends and family called again and discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Milly herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive. But she was not. The interference created false hope and extra agony for those who were misled by it.

… The deletion of the messages also caused difficulties for the police by confusing the picture when they had few leads to pursue. It also potentially destroyed valuable evidence.

According to one senior source familiar with the Surrey police investigation: "It can happen with abduction murders that the perpetrator will leave messages, asking the missing person to get in touch, as part of their efforts at concealment. We need those messages as evidence. Anybody who destroys that evidence is seriously interfering with the course of a police investigation."

Pretty disturbing, eh? Apparently, Dowling was not the only one. On Tuesday, July 5, 2011, The Guardian reported that other crime victim families have been notified they may have been phone hacking targets as well:

The parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the two children murdered by Ian Huntley, were contacted by Scotland Yard detectives investigating phone hacking at the News of the World, it emerged on Tuesday.

… It is believed the families were warned there was evidence to suggest they were targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was formerly employed by the paper.

And then there’s the father of a victim of London’s subway bombing. The New York Times reported on July 6, 2011:

On Wednesday, the father of a man who was killed in the 2005 terrorist attacks on the London subways said that he had been contacted by the police as a possible hacking victim. The man, Graham Foulkes, said he had been informed that numerous personal details, including his phone number, had been found in notes seized from Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was jailed in 2007 for hacking into the phones of aides to the royal family on behalf of The News of the World.

It was not clear whether his own phone was actually hacked after the 2005 attacks, Mr. Foulkes told the BBC, but the idea filled him with revulsion.

Now it turns out families of dead soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq may have been hacked, too.

As troubling as all this is, its significance goes beyond bad-taste lawbreaking for sensationalism. As Crooks and Liars noted, Rupertgate revelations now involve the former Communications Director for Prime Minister David Cameron, Andy Coulson who was, prior to his appointment, editor of News Of The World and who has subsequently resigned his post with Cameron in January. Questions continue to rise over how much Coulson knew and how far reaching actually is this scandal.

Reuters reported, "Lawmakers agreed to clear three hours of parliamentary time for an emergency debate on the issue Wednesday."

The scandal is beginning to affect News Corporation’s finances, too. The Times article reported:

Numerous advertisers, including Ford, the Halifax bank, Vauxhall, Mitsubishi and Virgin Holidays, have announced plans to suspend advertising in the paper. Thousands of people took to Facebook and Twitter not only to express their outrage over the hacking allegations but also to put pressure on companies to withdraw their advertising dollars from The News of the World.

CNN reported, "The scandal also caused the stock of News Corp to drop 4% during afternoon trading, even as the overall stock market gained ground."

Meanwhile, News Corp’s own Wall Street Journal reported that the scandal has caused “new headwinds” in the conglomerate’s plans to purchase British Sky Broadcasting.

And speaking of the Wall Street Journal, Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert pointed out that the scandal also threatens to hit them, too. Les Hinton, CEO of the Dow Jones Company, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, is now “under renewed scrutiny because the longtime Murdoch confidant was executive chairman of Murdoch's newspapers in Britain at the time when the alleged rampant hacking attacks took place.”

All this begs the question: Was any phone hacking conducted here in the United States? When asked about that in April, Rupert Murdoch refused to answer.

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