Phone hacking victims could number 4,000
The number of victims of the News of the World phone hacking scandal could exceed 4,000, detectives leading the investigation have warned.
Officers were last night continuing to trawl through 11,000 pages of material handed over by News International and have said they will contact everyone involved as "soon as possible".
Yesterday the Daily Telegraph revealed that the families of Armed Forces servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were among those whose private messages may have been intercepted by reporters working for the Sunday tabloid.
At least six of those families have now been contacted by police to confirm their names and personal details were found in the dossier seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
The revelation sparked widespread condemnation and revulsion and came just hours before News International announced it was to close the newspaper.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said he was disgusted by the suggestion that mourning families had been targeted by journalists from the News of the World.
He said: "It is grotesque beyond belief that these actions are alleged to have been committed on behalf of a news organisation committed to the military covenant."
A spokesman for the Royal British Legion said the organisation was "shocked to the core" by the revelations and also announced it was dropping the News of the World as its campaigning partner.
The Metropolitan Police have now set up a hotline for war widows worried that their phones may have been hacked to offer advice and support.
Christina Schmid, the widow of Staff Sgt Olaf Schmid who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, explained: "It's a crisis line for next of kin who may have had their phone hacked."
But there was concern last night the extent of the invasion of privacy could extend to emails as well as phone calls.
Tony Philippson, whose son Capt James Philippson was killed in Afghanistan trying to rescue a wounded comrade in June 2006, said he had been contacted by police to discuss the possibility that his sons email account had been accessed after his death.
As well as the families of dead servicemen, and victims of crime, more and more high profile figures continued to come forward last night to say they had been targeted illegally by the newspaper.
Michael Mansfield QC, who represented the family of Dodi Fayed at the inquest of Diana, Princess of Wales, said police had confirmed he was on a list of possible targets.
Mr Mansfield said: "Journalists would have been trying to get stories about Diana. It is particularly disturbing."
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is heading up Operation Weeting, last night urged the public to maintain confidence in the police investigation.
She said: "I understand that many people may be upset and will want to seek information from us. I ask them to be patient and reassure them we will contact them if they are affected – have confidence in us to keep our promise but also realise it will take time."
She added: "I have huge sympathy for those who may have been the victims of phone hacking or intrusion into their private lives.
"It must be incredibly distressing to see details of the information held, or speculation about what may be held, about them in the media. This is forcing them to relive devastating experiences.
"I stand by my commitment that Operation Weeting will contact all those who have some personal contact details found in the documents seized in 2005 and my officers are working hard to ensure it is fulfilled as soon as possible."