A long-running phone-hacking scandal that has plagued one of Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloids has taken a bizarre twist.
Journalists at the News of the World allegedly hacked into the voice-mail of an abducted teenage girl, giving her family false hope that she was alive and possibly hampering a police investigation in the process.
Evidence of the allegations were first reported by the Guardian, which claims to have uncovered evidence of the hack. British Prime Minister David Cameron has already called for a police inquiry into the allegations, the Associated Press reports.
The case involves Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old who went missing in 2002 and was found murdered six months later. A nightclub doorman was convicted of her killing.
News of the World is accused of hacking into Dowler’s voice-mail to listen to messages and, once the mailbox began to fill up, deleting existing messages to make room for new ones. That move reportedly led her parents to believe she may have still been alive, while also hindering the police investigation into her disappearance.
A number of News journalists have already been arrested for hacking the voice-mails of celebrities, royal aides, and athletes. The paper has admitted wrongdoing and paid settlements to some of its targets, including actress Sienna Miller.
Mark Lewis, the Dowler family’s lawyer, said he will sue the tabloid for the hacking.
"The fact that they were prepared to act in such a heinous way that could have jeopardized the police investigation and give them false hope is despicable,” Lewis said.
News of the World is published by News International, a subsidy of News Corp.
News International CEO Rebekah Brooks said in an email to her staff Tuesday that the “strongest possible” actions will be taken to verify the truth of the charges.
She also said that she had no knowledge of the alleged hacking and would not resign, though she faces mounting pressure to do so.