Video: Phone hacking: Milly Dowler's mother tells how she thought daughter was still alive
THE mother of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler has told an inquiry into phone hacking of the moment she thought her daughter was still alive because her voicemails had been deleted.
Sally Dowler and husband Bob were given false hope about the missing 13-year-old, after previously being unable to leave messages when they called her phone because the voicemail facility was full.
Unknown to them at the time, her phone had been hacked into and messages deleted by Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective employed by the News of the World.
Mrs Dowler said: "At first we were able to leave messages and then her voicemail became full.. so I was used to hearing that.
"I rang her phone and it clicked through on to her voicemail and I just jumped and said: 'She's picked up her voicemails Bob, she's alive'. When we heard about the hacking that was the first thing I thought.
"I told my friends 'she's picked up her voicemail, she's picked up her voicemail'. All I can remember is that the police told us that they'd put some credit on her phone and I can only really remember them telling us that."
She said the revelation about her daughter's phone being hacked had been "terribly difficult to process".
Mrs Dowler and her husband were giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry, which was ordered by David Cameron after it emerged that Milly Dowler had been a subject of phone hacking.
Mr Dowler said: "The gravity of what had happened had to be investigated.
"I think there is a much bigger picture, obviously, but I think that given that we learned about those hacking revelations just before the trial for the murder of our daughter, it was extremely important that we understood and people understand exactly what went on in terms of these practices, to uncover this information from the hacking situation.
"We would sincerely hope that News International and other media organisations would look very carefully how they procure, how they obtain information about stories. Obviously, the ramifications are far greater than what appears in the press."
Mrs Dowler also described how the News of the World intruded on their grief by publishing a picture of them privately retracing the route Milly was walking home when she was abducted.
"We quietly retraced her steps and no-one was around," she said. "We had put out missing leaflets and I was checking to see if the right poster was up.
"That was on the Thursday, and the following Sunday that photo appeared in the News of the World. We did not see anyone - they must have taken the photo using a telephoto lens.
"How on earth did they know we were doing that walk on that day? It felt like such an intrusion into a really private grief moment. "