MPs call for inquiry into Dowler police 'failure'


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The Independent Online

An authoritative inquiry into Surrey Police's handling of the Milly Dowler case and its decade-long silence over illegal voicemail interceptions and links with the News of The World, has been called for by MPs who helped expose phone hacking.

The demands follow a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission published yesterday which found no evidence that a Surrey detective leaked confidential information to the NOTW during the period in 2002 when the murdered 13 year old schoolgirl was still listed as missing. 

In a brief three-and-half page report, the  police watchdog  concluded that the unnamed officer had received no illegal payments from the now-closed Sunday tabloid. 

However the report offered no explanation why the Surrey force held  documentation from the NOTW which indicated that "two payments had been made by journalists in 2002 in connection with Milly Dowler."

The report was described by Chris Bryant MP, as  ‘very limited'. He told The Independent:  "So far Surrey police have consistently failed to come clean  about their complete failure to follow up the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone  - which they knew about 10 years ago."

Mr Bryant called for a "full investigation into exactly what went on". 

Surrey Police in contrast welcomed the report, saying it had called in the IPCC last year because it wanted to be "open and transparent".

The IPCC commissioner Mike Franklin, said allegations that a Surrey detective had provided information to NOTW journalists for cash during Operation Ruby

had not been backed up with "substantive or factual" evidence. 

The report said a "disgruntled" former police officer, who had been the subject of  "a misconduct matter" had offered information to journalists which had led to the IPCC probe.  The information was described in the report as "supposition and rumour."

But the Labour MP Tom Watson, who helped lead the Commons' culture and media select committee  inquiry into phone hacking, said the IPCC report did "not attend to the central issue of why there was 10 years of silence by Surrey Police."

Mr Watson  said the key issue of the  phone hacking scandal inside the Metropolitan Police, namely "strong evidence of wrong-doing" now had to be answered by Surrey Police

Last month Mr Watson's parliamentary committee received a letter from Surrey's deputy chief constable, Jerry Kirkby, which listed 15  separate  discussions between police officers and  NOTW journalists in April 2002 describing messages found on Milly Dowler's phone voicemails.

Neither yesterday's  IPCC report, nor the report given to the DCMS committee, acknowledges the relationship between journalists from  Sunday tabloid and the force's handling of the Dowler case.

In October last year, following an investigation by The Independent, Surrey Police's former chief constable, Mark Rowley, admitted for the first time that the NOTW had contacted the Surrey force in 2002  and disclosed to officers that it had accessed Milly Dowler's voicemails.

In a letter to the Home Affairs select committee Mr Rowley said Surrey officers had been "concentrating on retrieving evidence" when he confirmed that no criminal investigation had been launched into how the NOTW journalists had obtained personal information taken from  Milly Dowler's phone.