New details about the News of the World's hacking of missing school girl Milly Dowler's voicemail messages have emerged, according to the Guardian.
In a surprising turn, The Guardian reported that News of the World did not delete crucial messages from Dowler's voicemail just days after she was reported missing, an act that caused Dowler's family to have false hope that she was still alive. Instead, new evidence suggests that phone messages were deleted before News of the World hacked her voicemails. Therefore, another factor caused the deletion of Dowler's messages and caused the family's hopes to surge.
The Press Gazette wrote that "It is now believed that the messages could have been automatically deleted after detectives listened to them."
The Guardian reported that News of the World reporters still hacked Dowler's voicemail, and probably deleted some of them. However, the paper wrote, However, "police have concluded that they were not responsible for the particular deletion which caused her family to have false hope that she was alive."
That claim was made by the Guardian in its original article about the Dowler case. It was an appalling enough assertion that News International promptly shut the News of the World down because of the scandal it caused. The paper updated its story on Friday, adding this note:
"This article was updated on 9 and 11 December 2011. Since this story was published new evidence has led police to conclude that the News of the World was not responsible for the deletion of voicemails from Milly Dowler's mobile phone that caused her parents to have false hopes that she was alive."
Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was hired by News of the World to hack Dowler's voicemail after she went missing. He was later jailed in 2007 for his involvement in hacking the voicemails of royal aids. Mulcaire was again arrested for his involvement in phone hacking last week.
The Dowler's lawyers released a statement on Saturday responding to the new information. In the statement, lawyers acknowledged that "...Bob and Sally Dowler have always said it is not known whether the deletions were by Glenn Mulcaire or another person from the News of the World." However, "It remains unchallenged that the News of the World listened to Milly Dowler's voicemail and eavesdropped on deeply personal messages which were being left for her by her distraught friends and family. By listening to messages, deletions occurred even if no conscious act of deletion had been undertaken."
Nick Davies, the award-winning Guardian reporter who co-authored the now updated story, staunchly defended his report on Monday's Sky News. In a heated conversation with former News of the World reporter Tom Latchem, Davies argued that the new evidence actually confirmed "95 percent" of his previous report.
The "one element" that "shifted," Davies said, was that there "is now confusion about who was responsible about the particular deletions [of messages] that led" to Dowler's family having false hope that she may still be alive. Davies maintained that the "deletions [of messages] was a powerful factor, but it was not the main point of the story."
Latchem argued that the deletions of messages was a very significant factor. Although he had nothing to do with phone hacking at News of the World, Latchem said that after the Guardian reported about the deletion of messages, people started to call him [scum,] and friends asked if he had ever hacked anyone's phone.