Hacking trial: News of the World rival ‘was also hacking Milly Dowler’s voicemails’ claims Glenn Mulcaire

Glenn Mulcaire claims he was jointly ‘tasked’  to access the murdered girl’s phone

Political Correspondent

A senior journalist working for a rival to the News of the World was alleged to be involved in directing a private investigator to hack into the voicemails of Milly Dowler, a court at the Old Bailey has heard.

The accusation was made by Glenn Mulcaire, who has pleaded guilty to phone hacking and will be sentenced later this week. Gavin Millar QC, acting for Mulcaire, told a mitigation hearing that Greg Miskiw, a former NOTW news editor, along with the journalist from a competitor newspaper, had jointly “tasked” the investigator to hack the murdered schoolgirl’s phone.

Although Scotland Yard had already re-opened its phone hacking investigation into the criminal culture inside the News International title, the expose of the Dowler hacking in June 2011 led to the closure of the NOTW and the ordering of the Leveson Inquiry.

Last week the former NOTW editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of hacking. Rebekah Brooks, the former NI chief executive, and Stuart Kuttner, the former managing editor of the NOTW, were both acquitted of being involved in a hacking conspiracy. Mrs Brooks was also found not guilty on all other charges against her.

Mr Kuttner was alleged by counsel representing Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup, two former NOTW journalists who have pleaded guilty to involvement in a conspiracy to hack, as “knowing” and “approving” of the regular use of Mulcaire.

Thurlbeck’s barrister, Hugh Davies QC, also named Coulson, an in-house NI lawyer and another senior journalist on the NOTW as being part of an “approved corporate policy” to introduce the practice of hacking. Legal restrictions prevent them being named.

Mr Davies told the judge, Mr Justice Saunders, that  the large NOTW team involved in the Dowler investigation were “led and directed” by Coulson and Mr Kuttner. He also criticised an explanation offered by Mulcaire that when he hacked the schoolgirl’s phone he believed he was doing so with the authority of the police, had only wanted to find the missing schoolgirl, and did not expect a story to be published. Mr Davies said this was “intrinsically ridiculous”.

Billie Piper stars as a tabloid news editor in a satirical play inspired by the phone- hacking scandal which opened at the National Theatre last night Billie Piper stars as a tabloid news editor in a satirical play inspired by the phone- hacking scandal which opened at the National Theatre last night

Charles Bott QC, representing Weatherup, said no one at the trial had “heard the voice of James Weatherup”. Mr Bott said Weatherup had instructed Mulcaire because phone hacking was the “standard policy of the NOTW”.

Weatherup, he said, had continuously argued against the use of Mulcaire, but this had been effectively over-ruled by Coulson, Mr Kuttner, and the senior journalist who cannot be named. Mr Boot said it was incorrect that phone hacking at NI should be regarded as carried out by a “small clique” of news editors.

At the beginning of the mitigation hearing, five NOTW journalists and Mulcaire sat next to each other in the dock in court 12. Dan Evans, the former NOTW feature writer, who gave evidence during the eight-month trial and who pleaded guilty to hacking before the trial started, was allowed to leave early as he will be sentenced in a separate hearing next month.

At the beginning of the hearing Coulson was told that he will face a retrial on two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. He will be tried alongside the former NOTW royal editor, Clive Goodman.

Both are accused of paying police officers for internal phone directories of the royal household.

Last week, although the jury found Coulson guilty of hacking, they could not reach a majority verdict on the charges relating to the royal directories against the former Number 10 spin doctor and Goodman.

Sentencing is expected on Friday.

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