Scotland Yard is investigating evidence that a detective who acted as a liaison officer between the family of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and Surrey Police was targeted by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
The name and mobile phone number of the detective constable, who would have been privy to the private anguish of the Dowler family, was found in the 11,000 pages of evidence seized from Mulcaire's home. The investigator, right, obtained voicemail PINs and eavesdropped on phone messages on behalf of the News of the World.
The disclosure last summer that the NOTW had intercepted and deleted Milly's voicemails after her abduction in March 2002 forced the closure of the 168-year-old Sunday paper.
During their evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, Milly's parents, Sally and Bob Dowler, told how other events around the time of their daughter's disappearance, including the publication by the NOTW of photographs of them on an unannounced walk to retrace Milly's footsteps, had raised their suspicions of interference with voicemails.
Last October, a lawyer for Surrey Police told the inquiry that it was "very likely" that an unspecified number of its officers involved in the hunt for Milly "were themselves victims of hacking" in 2002. But until now it had not been known that a police officer in such a pivotal role was among those whose details were obtained by Mulcaire.
Operation Weeting, the Yard's investigation into phone hacking, is understood to be examining whether the presence of the detective's information on the files of Mulcaire, jailed in 2007 for phone hacking, can be translated into evidence that her voicemails were also listened to.
In a statement, Surrey Police said last night: "Inquiries are ongoing and it would be inappropriate for us to make any further comment at this time."
It is likely that voicemails left for the detective constable working with the Dowlers contained particularly sensitive material. Mulcaire, who was arrested last month on suspicion of hacking voicemails and perverting the course of justice, denied that he had ever deleted messages from Milly's phone and "had no reason to do so".
His solicitor yesterday said, "You are aware that Glenn has been arrested in connection with Dowler so [we] cannot comment".
News International declined to comment yesterday. Scotland Yard said it would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.