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NotW didn't delete Milly Dowler 'false hope' voicemail

Messages removed automatically, say cops

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New evidence has emerged that shows that the News of the World was not responsible for deleting voicemail messages on murder victim Milly Dowler's phone, a move that gave her family false hope that the schoolgirl might still be alive.

Scotland Yard officers working on Operation Weeting discovered phone logs that showed that the now-defunct Sunday tabloid was not to blame for hacking the teenager's mobile phone in the first few days after she disappeared in 2002.

The Guardian had previously reported shocking revelations that suggested that individuals working for the NotW had obstructed the police inquiry into Dowler's whereabouts by deleting messages on the schoolgirl's phone.

But new evidence, reported in the Guardian and News International-owned Sunday Times [paywall], suggest that a private investigator had been instructed to hack into the teenager's phone a few days after her mother had thought Milly was accessing her voicemails.

Detectives working on Operation Weeting told the Dowler family in April this year that journalists at the Sunday tabloid had deleted messages on Milly's phone. They have since uncovered evidence that showed the girl's phone would automatically delete voicemails 72 hours after being listened to.

Some of those messages were deleted prior to anyone working for the NotW gaining access to Milly's voicemails, Scotland Yard reportedly said.

The Milly Dowler scandal sparked outrage against Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire in the UK. It led to News International sensationally shuttering the 168-year-old NotW, in a move to distance the company from what had become a "toxic" brand.

The fallout continued throughout the summer, with Rebekah Brooks - a one-time editor of the NotW - eventually resigning from her job as NI boss. The ex-chief reporter at the newspaper, Neville Thurlbeck, will give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry later today.

Murdoch's News Corp, the parent company of News International, agreed to pay £2m to the Dowler family in October this year.

The media mogul said at the time: "The behaviour that the News of the World exhibited towards the Dowlers was abhorrent and I hope this donation underscores my regret for the company's role in this awful event." ®

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