Dowler Family Insist Police Told Them NotW Journalists Deleted Milly's Voicemails

News Of The World

The Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 13/12/11 13:06 Updated: 13/12/11 16:51

The family of Milly Dowler have insisted the police told them News of the World journalists deleted voicemails on their murdered daughters' phone.

On Monday the Metropolitan Police said Milly's voice messages may have been "automatically removed" by her phone after they were listened to by reporters at the tabloid and were not disposed of on purpose.

In a statement issued on Tuesday through their lawyer Mark Lewis, the family said: “The Dowlers stand by the statement which was made on their behalf at the end of last week. They have a clear recollection that the police told them that the News of the World had listened to their missing daughter’s voicemail and deleted some of the messages.

"They have asked all of the press to leave them alone and, while they remain willing to help Lord Leveson, they do not propose to make any further statement.”

A lawyer representing Scotland Yard told the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics on Monday that there was no evidence that journalists deleted the murdered schoolgirl’s phone messages, apparently contradicting what they had told the Dowler family at the time.

Lord Justice Leveson, chairing the inquiry into press standards, asked the police to clarify exactly what happened to the messages, which gave the Dowler family false hope following Milly's disappearance.

The allegation that journalists from the News of the World deleted Milly's voice messages sparked a public outcry, and was a major factor leading to the closure of the newspaper in June.

Milly was 13-years-old when she was abducted on her way home from school in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey in 2002. Her body was discovered in September that year. Levi Bellfield was found guilty of her murder in June this year and was sentenced to life in prison.

Speaking at the inquiry, Neil Garnham QC said: "It is conceivable that other News International journalists deleted the voicemail but the Metropolitan Police have no evidence to support that proposition and current inquiries suggest that it is unlikely."

"The most likely explanation is that existing messages automatically dropped off from the mailbox after 72 hours. The relevant phone network provider has confirmed that this was a standard automatic function of that voicemail box system at the time."

The revelation has reportedly caused outrage among some former News of the World journalists, who lost their jobs after the newspaper closed following publications by the Guardian that News International employees had deleted Dowler’s messages.

Richard Caseby, the managing editor of the Sun, today accused the Guardian of "sexing up" the Dowler story while appearing at a House of Lords committee investigating privacy and the press.

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