Payne detective's phone 'hacked'

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The Independent Online

A police officer involved in the investigation into the murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne has said he believes his phone may have been hacked by the News of the World.

Detective Chief Inspector Martyn Lewis, who was second-in-command of the Sussex Police investigation into the 2000 killing, said he had now reported his concerns to Scotland Yard's Operation Weeting inquiry.

The claim follows the disclosure that Sarah's mother, Sara Payne, may have had her phone hacked by the News of the World, despite having worked closely with the paper to campaign for tougher child protection laws.

Mr Lewis said he initially became suspicious some time in 2002 or 2003 when he was telephoned at home by a News of the World executive threatening to publish a story about him which concerned the Payne family.

He said he told the executive that the story was completely untrue and warned he would sue if the paper ran it. In the event, nothing appeared.

"The fact they didn't run the story would suggest their source was illegal and if I had admitted what the executive asked me they would have run the story and because I didn't they didn't run the story," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

"I was the main (police) contact with Sara. Sara over a period of time became my friend and we often left each other lengthy voicemails which were intimate, because we are friends, and which could be misinterpreted or this allegation about the Payne family could have been construed from it."

He said that the calls had been made on a police mobile which also contained voicemail messages relating to other investigations.

"On that case and on other cases I was running covert inquiries, sensitive inquiries, that would have been the subject of answer phone messages," he said.

The chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, John Whittingdale, said that it was another "appalling" allegation.

"People were very shocked to discover Sarah Payne's phone may have been hacked. Obviously to hack into a police officer's phone raises whole other questions," he said.