A mother who lost her son in the 7/7 bomb attacks in London and spent eight days trying to find out if he was alive or dead by leaving more than 100 worried messages, has been told her phone was targeted by the News of the World hacker Glenn Mulcaire – and will now be one of the lead cases in legal action against the newspaper's publisher.
Sheila Henry's 26-year-old son, Christian Small, was on his way to work in central London on the Piccadilly line when the terrorists struck. She never saw him again; he was killed in the Russell Square Tube bombing.
It was confirmed yesterday that police investigating the illegal use of telephone intercepts by the NOTW found her number and that of her son among the lengthy list kept by Mulcaire, the convicted private investigator who accessed phone message details for the now defunct newspaper.
In a preliminary hearing at the High Court, Mr Justice Vos, the judge managing the civil litigation against News International's (NI) subsidiary, News Group Newspapers (NGN), added Ms Henry to the cross-section of five other test cases that will determine the scale of damages settlements for other alleged victims of phone hacking.
The key cases against News International include those of the football agent Sky Andrew, the interior designer Kelly Hoppen, Labour MP Chris Bryant and former England football star Paul Gascoigne.
The NOTW only mentioned Mr Small briefly in an article on the July 2005 bombings, describing him as "missing" in a "gallery of despair".
However it was alleged that just before the sixth anniversary of the attacks, the Metropolitan Police team that is investigating Mulcaire and the NOTW, had discovered details of 7/7 victims' families being hacked. During the High Court hearing, NI's barrister, Michael Silverleaf QC, revealed that two new caches of documents had recently been discovered which he said "the current management were unaware of".
NGN was ordered during the summer to search its internal email system for further evidence that mobile phones belonging to a list of public figures had been targeted by the NOTW.
Mr Justice Vos described the new material as "significant" and said he believed there was "lots more to come".
On top of the revelations this summer that the phone of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been hacked by the NOTW, the allegations that the paper had focused on 9/11 victims' families, were seen as emotional tipping points that led NI to close the title. The family grief surrounding the death of Christian Small and its potential impact as part of a key test case will be seen as equally difficult for NGN.
On the day he was killed, Christian's sister, Tameka, and friends, began pinning posters of him around London hoping he would be found. Documents presented to the court paint a picture of a tortured mother leaving message after message on her son's phone.
Following the police's re-examination of Mulcaire's notebooks in January this year, it is understood that Ms Small was notified that numbers linked to her family were found in the private detective's files.
Mr Justice Vos gave NGN until 30 September to comply with an earlier court order requiring it to disclose any evidence it held relating to phone-hacking claims.