The family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler have demanded that Rebekah Brooks take responsibility for the phone hacking scandal and resign.
They said that as editor of the News of the World at the time Milly disappeared, she should “do the honourable thing” and step down from her role as chief executive of News International.
The family spoke out after meeting Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, at Downing Street as questions were raised about how long Surrey Police had known about the phone hacking.
It has been claimed that the News of the World alerted detectives to a false message placed on Milly’s mobile phone in 2002, suggesting that they knew about the illegal practice nine years ago and yet failed to tell her family or take any further action.
Mark Lewis, the Dowler family lawyer, said his clients did not understand why Brooks should keep her job.
He said: “They see this as something that went right to the top
"She was editor of the News of the World at the time that Milly was taken in 2002. She should take editorial responsibility."
Both Mr Lewis and former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick said the police should have told the Dowlers that they may have been targeted.
He added: "Apparently Surrey Police knew at the time that the phone was being hacked into. Why they didn't tell the family at all ... is a matter for Surrey Police to answer. What it does show is that this relationship between the police and the press is not restricted to the Metropolitan Police."
Brooks was editor of the News of the World when Milly, 13, disappeared near her home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002.
She has tried to distance herself from the subsequent phone hacking revelations by insisting that she was on holiday at the time.
An investigation was launched after detectives from Scotland Yard’s inquiry into phone hacking, Operation Weeting, found evidence that the Dowlers had been targeted in a collection of notes kept by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was jailed for hacking on behalf of the tabloid.
Formal statements have been taken from officers who worked on the case as it was alleged that messages left on Milly’s phone were listened to and then deleted to free up space, giving her family false hope that she was alive.
It emerged that a woman claimed to be Milly Dowler when applying for a job with a recruitment agency which in turn left a message on the teenager's phone six days after she went missing.
The newspaper heard the message and informed police about it but no action was ever taken.
The Dowlers were only told about their daughter’s phone being hacked a week before Levi Bellfield stood trial for her murder last month.