News Corp. officials have identified the person from the weekly tabloid’s staff who commissioned a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, to target murdered Millie Dowler’s phone. This all adds up to an acknowledgment that the tabloid targeted her phone for illegal hacking. News Corp. hasn’t released the person’s name yet.
It remains unclear whether Mulcaire himself, or someone else, obtained the voice mails from Dowler’s phone. The law firm representing Mulcaire told News Corp.’s WSJ neither he nor his attorney was available for comment.
In April 2002, News Corp.’s News of the World sent reporters and photographers to an Epson ink-cartridge factory in the UK, hoping to publish the headline: Missing Milly Dowler Found Alive.
The thinking was 13-year-old girl—whose disappearance was then a big story in Britain—had run away from home and gotten a job at the Epson factory. The paper had a voice-mail message, apparently intercepted from her phone, suggesting she worked there.
The tabloid’s hope was that, “When Milly Dowler clocked off work, we would be there outside the gates,” said one journalist involved in the three-day stakeout, which hasn’t previously been reported. “We could say, ‘There you are, Milly, the whole world has been looking for you.’ “
It turned out the girl wasn’t working at Epson. In September 2002, she was found murdered.
The pursuit of Amanda “Milly” Dowler to the Epson factory would culminate, on April 14, 2002, with publication of the only articles containing discussions of the girl’s voice mails printed by the News of the World. The voice mails, apparently obtained illegally, are what ignited the phone-hacking scandal that has led to the closing of the 168-year-old paper, the resignations of several top executives, News Corp.’s offer to acquire the rest of British Sky Broadcasting put on hold indefinitely and hearings/investigations of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and Deputy COO James Murdoch from the U.K. Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
On 8/19 the Dowler’s family lawyer said the family and News International are now in talks aimed at avoiding litigation over the phone-hacking matter. “No agreement has been reached,” he told WSJ. A spokeswoman for News International declined to comment specifically on any talks with the Dowlers but said the company is looking to settle with phone-hacking victims as swiftly as possible.