Papers will show how much police knew about hacking of Milly's phone


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The Independent Online

New documents will be published today showing how much Surrey Police knew about the News of the World hacking the phone of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The Independent revealed last year that two senior officers from Surrey met with NOTW journalists in the weeks after the teenager's disappearance and were shown evidence that the paper held information taken from her voicemails - but the senior Surrey officers failed to investigate or take action against Britain's then top-selling Sunday title.

The House of Commons media select committee, which is examining the extent of knowledge about voicemail interception at Rupert Murdoch's News International, is expected to today release information provided by the Surrey force about its interaction with the now-defunct Sunday tabloid in the weeks following Milly's abduction in March 2002.

The select committee material is being made public at the same time as the Leveson Inquiry into press standards is examining submissions from Surrey Police, Scotland Yard and a mobile phone company as part of what Lord Justice Leveson has described as an effort to "get to the bottom of" the controversy about the NOTW's hacking of Milly's phone.

It is understood that a report which aims to provide a full explanation for how voicemails came to be deleted from the murdered schoolgirl's phone in first days of her disappearance - falsely giving her parents hope that she was still alive - has now been put before the judge, who must decide when and how much information from it can be made public.

A source familiar with the submissions said: "All the detail and any new information has now been provided. It is up to the inquiry and the judge what can enter the public domain because this area is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation."

Lord Justice Leveson ordered the new statements following the revelation in December that there was no evidence that journalists were behind the deletion of voicemails which created the so-called "false hope" moment and that the "most likely explanation" was that the messages had been removed automatically by a 72-hour deletion facility on her phone.

The allegation that the NOTW had caused the deletions and made Sally and Bob Dowler believe their daughter was calling her mailbox was first published by The Guardian last summer and proved a tipping point in the phone hacking scandal - provoking public outrage, an advertiser boycott and the eventual decision to close the 168-year-old NOTW.

The revelation that the NOTW was responsible for hacking into Milly's pay-as-you-go phone at some stage in the investigation led to a £2million settlement by NI and a £1m donation to charity by Rupert Murdoch. But confusion now exists about just how the initial deletions came about amid claims that a reporter whose identity is known to Surrey Police had also managed to get hold of Milly's phone number and her voicemail PIN in the early days of the investigation.

Following The Independent's investigation, Surrey Police admitted for the first time that it had been approached by the NOTW in April 2002 and told by the paper that it had accessed Milly's voicemail. The force, which has launched an internal investigation into the incident, has been criticised on the grounds that its failure to investigate the hacking was a missed opportunity to prevent the practice becoming endemic at the NOTW.