Sunday 23 April 2017

'She's alive' -- Milly's mum on hearing slain girl's voicemail

Parents tell of trauma as hope dashed

Cahal Milmo in London

THE psychological trauma inflicted by phone hacking was revealed in full yesterday when the parents of Milly Dowler relived the elation and hope they felt upon suddenly reaching her voicemail and concluding she was still alive.

Sally and Bob Dowler, who were speaking publicly for the first time since the revelation in July that the News of the World had accessed the teenager's phone messages, told the Leveson Inquiry that the scale and "gravity" of eavesdropping on voicemails by journalists must be understood by the public.

As a hushed courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice listened, Mrs Dowler gave a vivid account of how, after many days of calling her daughter's mobile phone and hearing an automated recording that her voicemail inbox was full, she suddenly heard her recorded voice and was able to leave a message.

Mrs Dowler said: "I rang her phone. It clicked through on to her voicemail, so I heard her voice and it was just like, 'She's picked up her voicemail, Bob, she's alive!'." She added: "I told my friends, 'She's picked up her voicemail, she's picked up her voicemail'."

The Dowlers revealed the effects of the hacking when it was finally disclosed to them.

Mrs Dowler said: "As soon as I was told it was about phone hacking, literally I didn't sleep for about three nights because you replay everything in your mind and just think, 'Oh, that makes sense now, that makes sense'."

It was only on the eve of the trial of Levi Bellfield, the former bouncer who was convicted of Milly's murder this summer, that the family found out that they had been able to leave their voicemail because messages on the Surrey schoolgirl's phone had been listened to by the NOTW and deleted to enable others to be left by her family and friends.

Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by the Sunday paper to obtain information and eavesdrop on voicemails, last night insisted that he was not personally responsible for deleting messages and "had no reason to do so".

The mother of Milly, who was likely to have been murdered by Bellfield within hours of him abducting her close to her home in Walton on Thames, said she could not remember how detectives reacted when she told them that her daughter seemed to have accessed her voicemails.

An investigation by 'The Independent' in London established last month that Surrey Police knew within the first weeks of the hunt for Milly that the NOTW had been accessing her voicemails but took no action against the paper.

The inquiry heard it was possible that the mobiles of the Dowlers themselves were also accessed after they were photographed on a private walk to retrace their daughter's likely final steps some seven weeks after Milly disappeared in March 2002.(©Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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