Dec 13, 2011

An unusual twist in the NotW phone-hacking tale

The Leveson inquiry into the UK print media has taken an unusual turn.

The Leveson inquiry into the UK print media has taken an unusual turn with the revelation that one of the centrepieces of the whole phone-hacking affair — the wiping of messages from murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s phone — was almost certainly not done by News of the World employees, as had been alleged.

The allegations concerning NotW journalists, and private detective Glenn Mulcaire, were made by Guardian journalist Nick Davies, as part of the long investigation of the phone-hacking affair. The suggestion that repeated hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemail had deleted two old messages, and thus given her parents hope that she might be alive, was the catalyst for a whole chain of events — a grovelling apology by Rupert Murdoch, and the negotiation of a huge out-of-court settlement with the Dowlers, and the closure of News Corporation’s News of the World, the UK’s biggest-selling newspaper.

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12 thoughts on “An unusual twist in the NotW phone-hacking tale

  1. Chris Graham

    Love your work Guy, but does it really matter? They hacked a murdered girl’s phone.

  2. Oscar Jones

    Nick Davies is correct. If journalists had not been commissioning criminal acts they would have no case to answer.

    The wording of this claim that NOTW hacks may have not hacked is shockingly arranged to give an impression of NOTW innocence when no such thing has been established.

    The overall criminality that has occurred with pontificating and moralising tabloids is continually being sidelined by these distractions.

    Look at the facts-the Murdochs closed the most profitable newspaper in their stable and they could also have done the checks as could the police. The unholy alliance between Fleet Street and the police is being exposed for what it is-corruption at the highest levels.

    My view-the Leveson Inquiry is merely skimming the surface. Why aren’t people like the convicted Gary Glitter asked to give evidence that while he has served his term and entitled to re-enter society like any other person, he has been hounded from home to home in a bizarre and vindictive campaign of harassment by tabloids (with one journalist who has been arrested in this inquiry).

    People can throw their hands up in horror at a Glitter character but thousands of others have suffered similarly so a corporation can profit handsomely-the same corporation that controls much of Australia’s media.

    If Leveson & Finklestein blow these inquiries it will be far worse than before.

  3. shepherdmarilyn

    They still committed the crimes against hundreds or thousands of innocent people in the name of smut.

  4. DF

    I’d suggest they were so involved in criminal activities re hacking phones that they had no idea who was doing what. More damning is that no-one was prepared to question Davies’ assertion, meaning they accepted it was likely and probable, which means there were no moral or ethical boundaries or, if there were, they were further out beyond this point.

  5. Mack the Knife

    If messages were deleted after 72 hours her phone should have been entirely devoid of all messages which it wasn’t as at one stage it was full.

    This certainly doesn’t absolve “was almost certainly not done by News of the World employees, as had been alleged” at all. If they were innocent they would have squealed loudly and we know instead they accepted culpability.

    Somehow I sense the immense power of News International at work here (over the police force that was bribed).

  6. Jackol

    I actually doubt that the messages were automatically deleted – deleting messages after 72 hours is unheard of for any phone plan I’ve ever had, although obviously a cheap and nasty prepaid or something like that it is a possibility I suppose.

    It seems much more likely that the Ts&Cs from the phone company say something like “may be” deleted after 72 hours, and that in fact they were NOT automatically deleted at all in all likelihood.

  7. Lord Barry Bonkton

    Guilty your Honor , not fit or proper to own any media . Full stop. Should be trialled as a “Terrorists ” in my mind , the lot of them. Trying to overthrow a country ?

  8. zut alors


    Telstra Message Bank for fixed lines has a limit on the number of messages it holds (perhaps 10?). If caller 11 leaves a message then the message from caller 1 is deleted to make way for it. That’s why I never leave a message on the Telstra service as it’s not guaranteed the person will receive it.

    Am not 100% sure of this, perhaps a Crikey reader will confirm or correct.

  9. paddy

    This link has a “reality check” about the voice mail deletion after 72 hrs.
    Basically, only messages that had been accessed would have been deleted.
    So, while Glenn Mulcaire now has an out, NOTW is still on the hook for this outrage.

  10. Kevin Tyerman

    Re: Mack the Knife’s comment: “If messages were deleted after 72 hours her phone should have been entirely devoid of all messages which it wasn’t as at one stage it was full.”

    If their system is like the system used by my Nokia 1610 (yes, I still use one of those), the messages are deleted about 72 hours after they are accessed. If that is the system, and NOTW was the only one accessing the messages, they would have been responsible for messages being deleted, even if they did not specifically delete them. This would also explain Mrs Dowler being relieved that there was suddenly message space when calling Milly’s phone. Until they were accessed by NOTW, the message bank would appear to have been full with unaccessed messages, and I am guessing, no new messages could be left until that point.

    It may make one aspect of the original report wrong (the intention to delete messages to make space for new ones), but does not change the consequences of NOTW’s actions (that Milly was believed to be alive as her voicemail had been accessed).

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