A UK parliamentary committee has published a letter from Surrey police about the investigation into the disappearance and murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The letter is presented as evidence in the committee’s investigation into phone hacking and attempts to establish a timeline of conversations between the Surrey police and News Of The World reporters. The document demonstrates how reporters interfered with police progress on the missing persons case back in 2002 by misrepresenting themselves and making dodgy claims in the pursuit of a story. The letter further shows that reporters revealed knowledge of messages on the girl’s phone. However, the report stops short of elucidating the question of whether messages on her phone were deleted by the journalists, saying that’s still being investigted by the Metropolitan police. “When and the extent to which Milly’s mobile phone voicemail was unlawfully accessed (and whether any messages were deleted) are matters which form part of the MPS’s ongoing investigation.” In separate but related news, Rupert Murdoch tweeted the following this morning: “No excuses for phone hacking. No argument. No excuses either for copyright stealing, but plenty of ignorant argument!”
The parents of Milly Dowler told a UK inquiry into the News Of The World hacking scandal this morning that the family admonished Rupert Murdoch to “set things right” in July when he visited to apologize for the tabloid’s actions after their daughter was missing in 2002 and later found murdered. The paper had hacked into the 13-year-old’s cell phone and deleted voicemail messages, giving the Dowlers false hope. ”She’s picked up her voice mails Bob, she’s alive,” the girl’s mother, Sally Dowler, told her husband at the time she said in an appearance before the Leveson Inquiry. As the family and others waited to learn the girl’s fate she said that she “had to be on guard outside your front door” because reporters ”would come up to you when least expect it. They’d fire a question at you without introducing themselves.” She added that Murdoch was “very sincere” in his apology. But her daughter Gemma told him that she hoped he would use the scandal “as an opportunity to put things right in the future and have some decent standards and adhere to them.” Milly’s father, Bob Dowler, urged Murdoch’s News International and other media companies to “look very carefully at how they procure and how they maintain information about stories.” Sally Dowler said that she didn’t sleep for three nights after police told her that Milly’s phone had been hacked. Last month Murdoch agreed to pay the family $3.2M, and donate …
It’s already been a busy day in News Corp land. As Rupert Murdoch, company shareholders, at least one member of the UK Parliament and Occupy Los Angeles protesters gathered this morning for the annual News Corp shareholders meeting on the Fox lot (see updates here), the company already has made news overseas. News Corp’s UK newspaper arm News International, the unit that oversaw the News Of The World newspaper, said it has agreed to pay a $4.8 million to settle claims the now-shuttered tabloid hacked into the voicemail of murdered UK schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The biggest payout since the scandal began includes two-thirds of the total going to Dowler’s family and the rest to charity. “When I met with the Dowlers in July, I expressed how deeply sorry I was for the hurt we had caused this family,” Murdoch said in a statement. “The behavior that the News of the World exhibited towards the Dowlers was abhorrent.”
Tom Watson, the Labour MP who spoke at today’s shareholders meeting on the Fox lot in Century City, told Bloomberg News that News Corp’s $32 million fund set aside to settle the hacking cases is not enough to handle the load as more allegations are revealed. In a separate interview, former UK Prime Minister and longtime Murdoch friend Gordon Brown said the phone-hacking allegations “are only the tip of the iceberg,” referring to recent talk that computers also …
A report in Sky News today said that lawyers representing the News of the World‘s phone-hacking victims in the UK are planning to cross the pond and sue parent company News Corp and directors including James and Rupert Murdoch. In addition to the hacking claims, investigators are probing whether bribes offered to police officials by company representatives constitute a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — which can be enforced even if the bribes are made overseas. The lawyer for murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by journalists at the now-defunct NOTW tabloid owned by News Corp arm News International, is part of the legal push, telling Sky the action “will raise issues about the role of a parent company over its subsidiaries.” He has hired New York lawyer Norman Siegel, who represented several families of 9/11 victims, to investigate legal options stateside. Reports are coming out of the UK daily about the hacking scandal and its reverberations, but any time the words “Murdoch” and “U.S.” are involved, it fuels fears of stockholders and board members, who already are wary that the scandal could have far-reaching implications for the future of the media giant, which is based in New York.
Can News Corp Escape The Hacking Scandal Unscathed?
Rupert Murdoch’s News International has offered to pay roughly $4.7M to settle the case brought against it by the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. That’s a hefty amount –Murdoch is reported to have been personally involved with the negotiations– which could help or hurt the conglom as it moves through the scandal. News Corp. is trying to “be seen to be generous as it’s much more than would be awarded by a court,” said Niri Shan, the head of media law at Taylor Wessing LLP in London told Bloomberg. “The only downside is if it potentially sets an unrealistic expectation for others.” The settlement includes a 2 million-pound payment to the Dowler family and a 1 million-pound donation to charity. The settlement could be announced tomorrow morning but The Guardian said that the family has yet to sign off. Reports that Dowler’s voice mails had been hacked ignited the public outcry that forced News Corp to close the News of the World and drop its bid for full control of BSkyB. Parliament decided last week to have News Corp’s Deputy COO James Murdoch testify again, after after former employees questioned statements he made about his knowledge of the hacking at the tabloid.