Kelvin MacKenzie has told the Leveson Inquiry that the Sun would have come “very, very, very close to being shut down” if they had “got the Milly Dowler story wrong”.
The former Sun editor was referring to a series of Guardian articles stating that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was responsible for deleting messages from the missing teenager’svoicemail while working for the News of the World.
Lord Justice Leveson reacted by saying it was an “interesting assertion” to call the Guardian stories “completely wrong”.
MacKenzie added: “People view the Sun at the bottom of the pile and for as long as it exists I think they view papers like the Guardian as the top of the pile.”
He also referred to “snobbery” in the industry and press standards are “really defined by outcome, not by the income”.
Sally Dowler told the Inquiry in November 2011 that her family had been given false hope after voicemail messages were deleted from her daughter’s phone, believing they could have been accessed by Milly.
She said: “I rang her phone and it clicked through on to her voicemail and I just jumped and said: ‘She’s picked up her phone. Bob, she’s alive’. When we heard about the hacking that was the first thing I thought.”
The Guardian published a correction on 13 December last year stating that “new evidence” had led the Metropolitan police to conclude the original theory to be incorrect and that “while the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone the newspaper is unlikely to have been responsible for the deletion of a set of emails from the phone that caused her parents to have false hope that she was alive”. A footnote was appended to 37 stories dating from July to November 2011 on the Guardian website.