The News of the World hacked into the phone of Sara Payne, the mother of Sarah Payne, an abducted and murdered 8-year-old girl, the Guardian reported Tuesday.
It was the hacking of 13-year-old Milly Dowler's phone that turned the long-simmering phone hacking scandal into a full-blown crisis for the News of the World, Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. Yet the news of Payne's hacking is, in some ways, even more shocking, because it was her daughter's murder by a pedophile in 2000 that led News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks to launch a crusade for a sex offender's law in Britain known as "Sarah's Law." Brooks repeatedly mentioned the campaign in her testimony to Parliament, calling it an example of the good that the News of the World had done.
Payne grew so close to the paper, and to Brooks, that she wrote a column for its final issue, paying tribute to its campaign.
"The NOTW team supported me through some of the darkest, most difficult times of my life and became my trusted friends," she wrote. "One example of their support was to give me a phone to help me stay in touch with my family, friends and support network, which turned out to be an absolute lifeline."
According to the Guardian, it is that phone—personally given to Payne by Brooks—which may have been hacked. The disclosure raises, yet again, the question about what Brooks knew or did not know about the extent of phone hacking. Though she has claimed to have been in the dark about the extent of criminal activity at her newspaper, Brooks has already resigned as head of News International and is under a criminal investigation.
Scotland Yard reportedly found materials referring to Payne in the notes of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was jailed for phone hacking in 2007.
In response, Rebekah Brooks issued this statement:
"For the benefit of the campaign for Sarah's Law, the News of the World have provided Sara with a mobile telephone for the last 11 years. It was not a personal gift. The idea that anyone on the newspaper knew that Sara or the campaign team were targeted by Mr Mulcaire is unthinkable. The idea of her being targeted is beyond my comprehension. It is imperative for Sara and the other victims of crime that these allegations are investigated and those culpable brought to justice."