Police covered up Dowler hacking


Surrey Police knew for nine years that the News of the World had been hacking Milly Dowler's voicemails – and was even played a recording of one message by a journalist from the Sunday newspaper – but never took action about the law-breaking or told her anguished family.

The force, which was investigating the schoolgirl's disappearance and murder in 2002, has stayed silent for a decade despite repeatedly being given evidence of the NOTW illegally accessing the 13-year-old's mobile phone messages during the middle of its inquiries. Two other police forces also had knowledge of the hacking, it emerged yesterday in highly damaging evidence released by Parliament.

In a trail of logged exchanges between Surrey Police and journalists from the now-defunct Murdoch-owned tabloid – finally released yesterday after months of demands from this newspaper and another – officers and public relations officials from the force are shown to have been fully aware of how NOTW journalists illegally hacked into her mobile phone during 2002, and yet did and said nothing until late 2011.

The report, which details exchanges during the crucial weeks of the police hunt, is a heavily redacted summary of the initial findings of Surrey's deputy chief constable, Jerry Kirkby.

The report, published by the Culture and Media Select Committee of MPs, which has been investigating the phone-hacking scandal, backs up the central claims made in an investigation carried out by The Independent last October.

Surrey Police, despite its stonewalling, had discussed phone hacking with the NOTW in 2002 and had failed to take action against the News International title – action which could have halted the tabloid's criminal activities, which continued for almost a decade.

The logged exchanges in the Kirkby report reveals journalists from the NOTW interfering in the Surrey investigation, offering excuses about where they were getting information from, and attempting to bully police press officers into backing its theories on Milly's disappearance.

The report also confirms The Independent's claim that there was also a formal meeting between representatives of the tabloid and Surrey Police. The report says this meeting took place in July 2002. However, no notes have been given of what was discussed.

The report edits out the names of the NOTW journalists and the senior police officers who exchanged information. Mr Kirkby said this was done at the request of the Metropolitan Police which is currently pursuing a criminal investigation into key individuals at the centre of the hacking scandal.

Surrey officers admit they knew the NOTW held a recording of Milly's voicemails messages; that the force was played the message; that they were told the NOTW had got Milly's phone and pin number from "school friends".

The NOTW journalists redacted in the report are shown to be engaged in harassment, blagging, bullying, deception and a refusal to accept the views of the police investigation.

One unnamed individual tried to "blag" information about Milly by calling a recruitment agency and pretending to be her mother, Sally.

Last night the Dowler family said in a statement: "Surrey have not explained why they did not investigation that deception in 2002."

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who last week was among scores of individuals settling their phone-hacking claims with News International at a cost of millions of pounds,last night accused Surrey Police of having a "callous disregard" for the feelings of the Dowler family. Mr Bryant said: "It is extraordinary that they never sought to investigate the self-evident criminality and distasteful intrusion involved in hacking Milly Dowler's phone."

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said if Surrey Police had "flagged up" what they knew about phone hacking in 2002 "it may have prevented the culture of hacking becoming endemic at the NOTW." Mr Vaz said his committee would now begin investigating why Surrey Police "did not follow up on this evidence".

The jailed NOTW investigator Glenn Mulcaire has denied he deleted Milly's voicemails. News International has also denied it held evidence which pointed to its involvement in the deletions.

Although Mr Kirkby claimed his report is "substantive" he admits that despite nine years between the NOTW hacking Milly's phone and today, his report is only "a present understanding".

What the report does not resolve is how the voicemails on Milly's phone came to be deleted. On this issue, Mr Kirkby states that Scotland Yard has still not reached a final conclusion.

The Met said last December it believed new evidence pointed to journalists on the tabloid as being unlikely to have deleted the emails that freed up Milly's mailbox. This deletion had caused her parents to believe and hope their daughter might still be alive.

A News International spokeswoman said last night: "The interception of Milly Dowler's phone was shocking and totally unacceptable. The abhorrent nature of what was discovered to have happened at the News of the World ultimately led to its closure last year.

"The matter is part of a criminal investigation by the Metropolitan Police and those who sanctioned or conducted this activity should rightly be held accountable for their actions."

Last night questions were also being asked about how much West Mercia Police knew and could have revealed about hacking. The force are listed in the report engaging in exchanges of information and discussing the activities of the NOTW.

Tom Watson, the culture committee MP who has helped lead the hacking investigation, said the Surrey report held "shocking revelations".

The investigation: questions for Surrey Police

Q Why didn't Surrey Police investigate the News of the World and its reporters 10 years ago?

Despite talking with NOTW on 15 separate occasions, which must have included discussions with news executives running the Dowler story, and despite even being played a recording of a voicemail which could only have been taken from Milly's phone, no action was taken. The Deputy Chief Constable says his report is not "an entire account of Surrey Police's actions" – one of the report's most striking statements.

Q Why didn't the force tell Milly Dowler's parents that their daughter's messages had been hacked by NOTW reporters?

Surrey Police had a family liaison officer helping the Dowlers deal with the trauma of a missing daughter. It knew Sally and Bob Dowler's pain in 2002. It knew that pain was still there last year. The £3m payout from News International could never replace Milly. Yet Surrey Police stayed silent from 2002 until 2011 and only now admit what it could have have told the Dowlers. Its report offers no explanation for this silence.

Q Why has Surrey Police's internal investigation still not found out what was discussed at a meeting it had with the News of the World in July 2002?

More may be revealed when a senior Surrey Police officer gives evidence under oath to the Leveson Inquiry later this year.

Q Will Surrey Police refer its handling of the Milly Dowler voicemail hacking to the Independent Police Complaints Commission?

Yesterday's revelations may take this decision out of Surrey's hands. The IPCC has examined allegations relating to one officer involved in the murder inquiry. A decision on his case is expected soon. But this report suggests the IPCC may need to widen its inquiry.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain