In the reader comments on our previous post about the incestuous relationship between the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, his close friend and mentor and Guardian contributor, Geoffrey Robertson, and the Guardian’s David Leigh, ‘DB’ brings our attention to a story in today’s Guardian concerning the Milly Dowler phone hacking story.
It is accepted that messages left on the mobile phone voicemail belonging to Milly Dowler were listened to by private investigators or journalists working for the News of the World.
However the claim that sparked more anger and revulsion than any other in the whole phone hacking saga, and which swept around the world in news reports, was that News of the World reporters deleted some of Milly Dowler’s voicemails after listening to them in order to free up space for more messages to be left by her distraught family and friends, so they could listen in to those as well.
Milly Dowler’s mother has been widely reported explaining how messages being deleted from Milly’s voicemail gave her family hope that Milly was alive and listening to them. No one could have been failed to be moved by such emotive comments, and feel contempt for those NotW staff who were responsible for those actions.
Only, it has now emerged that police have concluded that the NotW were not responsible for the particular deletion which caused her family to have false hope that she was alive.
This has forced the Guardian to race into print with what ‘DB’ rightly describes as a nothing-to-do-with-us article by Nick Davies and David Leigh. Before revealing in the article that…
Evidence retrieved from Surrey police logs shows that this “false hope” moment occurred on the evening of Sunday 24 March 2002. It is not clear what caused this deletion. Phone company logs show that Milly last accessed her voicemail on Wednesday 20 March, so the deletion on Sunday cannot have been the knock-on effect of Milly listening to her messages. Furthermore, the deletion removed every single message from her phone. But police believe it cannot have been caused by the News of the World, which had not yet instructed private detective Glenn Mulcaire to hack Milly’s phone. Police are continuing to try to solve the mystery.
… Davies and Leigh try to maintain the ‘NotW did it’ meme in the third paragraph, which reads:
It is understood that while News of the World reporters probably were responsible for deleting some of the missing girl’s messages, police have concluded that they were not responsible for the particular deletion which caused her family to have false hope that she was alive.
It is a spiteful and desperate effort to cling to the most damaging claim despite the reality that, as things stand, there is absolutely no evidence for this claim.
It is possible that NotW journalists inadvertently caused the deletion of messages as evidence has now revealed that Milly’s phone would automatically delete messages 72 hours after being listened to. But nothing revealed by the sources shows that the original police claim that journalists had deliberately deleted some messages because Milly’s voicemail box had filled up, and they wanted to be able to listen to more.
Now all we have is the Guardian’s slopey shouldered duo of Davies and Leigh retailing speculation in the absence of evidence. These chuckle brothers are cyncially using the Dowler family lawyer as cover for their face saving actions, as shown by the inclusion of this in their article:
The Dowlers’ lawyer, Mark Lewis, said last night that although Mulcaire had not been instructed by email at the time of Sally Dowler’s “false hope” moment, it remained possible that the voicemails had been deleted by a News of the World journalist, or that Mulcaire had been instructed earlier by phone.
‘Probably…’ ‘possibly…’ it’s all a far cry from the certainty with which Davies leaped upon what now amounts to ill informed claims by police who seem to have kept the latest revelations under wraps for some time. Even now they cannot let the facts get in the way of their narrative.
So what are we left with? The Guardian’s bestselling author of Flat Earth News, a book about falsehood and distortion in the media, engaged in maintaining a smear against rival journalists despite the lack of any evidence – aided and abetted by the Guardian’s investigations executive editor, a self confessed phone hacker and ‘blagger’ of information who without any sense of shame or irony puts his name to this piece which includes a tut-tut reference to a NotW journalist blagging confidential phone records.
No doubt they will be expecting another media industry award from their fellow dissembling hacks.