News of the World accused of hacking Milly Dowler's phone

A private detective working for the News of the World is accused of hacking into Milly Dowler's voicemail after she went missing, a lawyer for the murdered schoolgirl's parents said today.

Scotland Yard officers contacted Sally and Bob Dowler about the allegations in April, a month before Levi Bellfield went on trial for her murder, solicitor Mark Lewis said.



Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire is alleged to have illegally accessed Milly's phone messages after she was abducted by Bellfield as she walked home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002.



Mr Lewis, from London-based Taylor Hampton Solicitors, said: "Sally and Bob Dowler have been through so much grief and trauma without further distressing revelations to them regarding the loss of their daughter.



"It is distress heaped upon tragedy to learn that the News of the World had no humanity at such a terrible time.



"The fact that they were prepared to act in such a heinous way that could have jeopardised the police investigation and give them false hope is despicable."



Mr and Mrs Dowler are now pursuing a claim for damages against the News of the World, Mr Lewis said.



Scotland Yard and the News of the World's publishers, News International, declined to comment on the allegations.



Mulcaire and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman were given jail terms in January 2007 after the Old Bailey heard they plotted to hack into royal aides' telephone messages.









Bellfield, 43, was given a second whole life jail term last month for 13-year-old Milly's murder.



But her parents said they felt as though they themselves were "put on trial" by his defence, which saw them face intrusive questioning about their family life in the witness box.



News of the World journalists are accused of deleting some voicemail messages on Milly's phone in the first days after she vanished, leading her relatives and friends to think she could still be alive, the Guardian reported.









Speaking in Parliament, Labour MP Tom Watson condemned the alleged hacking of the murdered teenager's phone as a "despicable and evil act".



It also emerged today that police have contacted Colin Stagg, the man cleared of murdering Rachel Nickell, and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson to tell them they may have been victims of News of the World phone hacking.



Detectives have told Mr Stagg his phone was hacked in 2000, six years after a judge at the Old Bailey threw out the case against him, his solicitor Alex Tribick said.



Mr Tribick added: "From my understanding, this is linked with the year 2000, which I believe is the earliest date of anybody so far."



Mr Stagg and his lawyer have yet to meet officers from Operation Weeting, Scotland Yard's fresh investigation into phone hacking allegations, but they are planning to make a civil claim for compensation.



Sir Richard wrote on Twitter: "Police inform me News of the World journalists targeted my phones. I should have been more entertaining!"



He suggested he would also pursue a claim for damages to be donated to charity, adding: "Hopefully good causes will be the winner."



Operation Weeting detectives have arrested five people since the new inquiry was set up in January.



A number of celebrities are pursuing litigation against the News of the World in the High Court.



They include ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, actor Jude Law, sports agent Sky Andrew, interior designer Kelly Hoppen and MP Chris Bryant.



Others, among them actress Sienna Miller and football pundit Andy Gray, have already settled with publishers News Group Newspapers.







A News International spokesman said: "We have been co-operating fully with Operation Weeting since our voluntary disclosure in January restarted the investigation into illegal voicemail interception.



"This particular case is clearly a development of great concern and we will be conducting our own inquiries as a result. We will obviously co-operate fully with any police request on this should we be asked."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Ricky Gervais performs stand-up
people
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering