News of the World journalists hacked into Milly Dowler’s voicemail and played a message to one of their press officers, Surrey Police claim.
The claim was disclosed in a letter submitted by the police force to the Culture, Media and Sports select committee, which was published on their website today.
The letter explained how a NoW journalist played a message left on March 27, 2002, on Milly’s mobile phone voicemail, which they thought proved Milly was alive and had been in touch with a recruitment agency.
The message was played to a police press officer and police officer on the phone, on April 13, 2002.
It said: “Hello Mandy. This is [REDACTED] from [REDACTED] Recruitment Agency. We are ringing because we have interviews starting today at [REDACTED]. Call back on [REDACTED]. Thanks, bye bye.”
When asked why they were convinced that message was not the work of a hoaxer, a NoW journalist unidentified in the letter, told the police press officer that the Now had got Milly’s mobile phone and PIN from school children.
The NoW reporter also told Surrey Police there were other voicemail messages on Milly’s phone, from “a tearful relative, a young boy, and someone saying ‘It’s America, take it or leave it’”.
The Now had two stories ready to go on April 13, 2002, according to the letter. One was that officers were treating the message as a hoax and the other that they were treating it as a line of enquiry. Under pressure from the NoW journalist, Surrey Police press officer got back in touch with an official line.
It read: “We are evaluating the claim that Amanda might have registered with a recruitment agency. At this stage there is the possibility that a hoaxer may be involved in generating this story.”
As Surrey Police made its enquiries throughout April, trying to establish whether the message was the work of a hoaxer, a Now journalist told the press officer that he was convinced that Milly had “run away to the North of England and was seeking employment there”.
It was established by Surrey Police on April 19 that contrary to their first suspicions the message left on Milly’s phone was not the work of a hoaxer but a coincidence, after a Ghanaian woman called Nana asked the agency to update her phone number and it may have been taken down wrongly.
The last contact between Surrey Police and the NoW about Milly’s voicemail messages happened on July 16, 2002, according to police’s logs.
They explain in the letter that “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’ ongoing investigation”.
Surrey Police admit in the letter it did not arrest or charge anyone in relation with accessing Milly’s voicemail.