Surrey Police to face IPCC over NOTW involvement in Dowler case

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The unanswered questions in Surrey Police's handling of the investigation and subsequent murder inquiry of Milly Dowler in 2002, and the force's close contact  with journalists from the News of World, is to be investigated by the police’s internal  watchdog authority, the IPCC.

The Independent Police Complaints Authority was yesterday contacted by the Labour MP Chris Bryant who asked that a “full, new investigation into the conduct of officers involved in the Dowler case and their relationship with members of the press” be carried out.

Although Surrey Police say they are already carrying out their own review  into how the Dowler case was handled, Mr Bryant’s demand to the interim chair of the IPCC, Len Jackson, will add to the growing pressures on the Surrey force to publish a full account of why they remained silent for almost a decade despite knowing  the NOTW had engaged in illegally phone hacking during the early months of the hunt for the missing schoolgirl in March and April 2002.

A partial account was released on Monday by the House of Common’s culture media and sport select committee when they released a redacted report on the Dowler case written by the deputy chief constable, Jerry Kirkby.

The report was intended to be the formal response by Surrey to questions that had been raised by John Whittingdale, chair of the CMS select committee.

With widespread criticism that the police’s account was limited and  did not answer key allegations related to its relationship with the News International title, Mr Bryant told Mr Jackson in his letter to the IPCC, that the focus of the report was “mainly” on the period between April 13 and 14, 2002.

However he said the report’s contents “does not address relationships between officers investigating Milly Dowler’s disappearance and News of the World reporters, nor does it reveal the interactions  (legitimate or otherwise) between Surrey Police officers and the News of the World in the twenty-two days from Milly Dowler’s disappearance to 13 April 2002.”

This period remains crucial to unanswered questions about who may have deleted messages on the teenager’s phone, about the scale of the NOTW news operation that was generated when the police search began, and about the early contact NOTW reporters made with key detectives in the early stages of Milly Dowler’s disappearance.

The IPCC told The Independent last night that it too had contacted Surrey Police. An IPCC spokeswoman said they  remaining “proactive” on potential complaints about the force’s handling of the case, and were awaiting an “update” from Surrey  how the force would respond.