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
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits