Police knew Milly's phone had been hacked in 2002 – but failed to act


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Senior Surrey Police detectives investigating the disappearance of Milly Dowler held two meetings with journalists from the News of the World and were shown evidence that the newspaper held information taken from the voicemails of the murdered schoolgirl.

An investigation by i reveals that the force subsequently failed to take action against the News International title, which meant that phone hacking by its journalists continued for another four years until Scotland Yard arrested the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and the NOTW royal editor Clive Goodman in August 2006.

One of the officers who attended the meetings was Craig Denholm, currently Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey. He was the Detective Chief Superintendent in charge of the investigation into the disappearance of the teenager on 21 March 2002, known as Operation Ruby.

i has established that, in April 2002, the NOTW arranged two meetings with the Surrey force during which it was made clear that the paper had obtained information that could only have come from messages on Milly's phone. The meetings were attended by at least two journalists from the Murdoch-owned paper, along with Mr Denholm and Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Gibson, who had day-to-day control of the inquiry.

Mr Gibson and Mr Denholm met the paper's journalists on two occasions. It became clear that the paper had obtained Milly's phone number and accessed her voicemails when the journalists revealed they knew about an apparent offer of a job interview to Milly made on 27 March 2002 at a Midlands factory. Despite this knowledge, Mr Denholm and his force appear to have taken a decision not to investigate the evidence of phone hacking.

In a statement, a News International spokesperson said: "We are unable to comment on any of the detail in the case. We continue to co-operate fully with the police."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is currently investigating claims a junior detective on Operation Ruby passed information to the NOTW. According to Surrey Police, the officer was removed.

The watchdog said: "[The inquiry is] specifically in relation to the actions of one detective constable and does not cover whether senior Surrey officers knew about the News of the World hacking Milly Dowler's phone in 2002. However, if during the course of our investigation ... we uncover any evidence of wrongdoing by anybody else in the force, we would of course deal with that."