The parents of Milly Dowler told a UK inquiry into the News Of The World hacking scandal this morning that the family admonished Rupert Murdoch to “set things right” in July when he visited to apologize for the tabloid’s actions after their daughter was missing in 2002 and later found murdered. The paper had hacked into the 13-year-old’s cell phone and deleted voicemail messages, giving the Dowlers false hope. “She’s picked up her voice mails Bob, she’s alive,” the girl’s mother, Sally Dowler, told her husband at the time she said in an appearance before the Leveson Inquiry. As the family and others waited to learn the girl’s fate she said that she “had to be on guard outside your front door” because reporters “would come up to you when least expect it. They’d fire a question at you without introducing themselves.” She added that Murdoch was “very sincere” in his apology. But her daughter Gemma told him that she hoped he would use the scandal “as an opportunity to put things right in the future and have some decent standards and adhere to them.” Milly’s father, Bob Dowler, urged Murdoch’s News International and other media companies to “look very carefully at how they procure and how they maintain information about stories.” Sally Dowler said that she didn’t sleep for three nights after police told her that Milly’s phone had been hacked. Last month Murdoch agreed to pay the family $3.2M, and donate an additional $1.6M to their favorite charities.
The inquiry also heard from Graham Shear, a lawyer who has represented entertainers including actor Jude Law and singer Robbie Williams, and sports stars such as soccer player Ashley Cole. He said that celebrities still have a right to privacy, but tabloid reporters had “lost their ethical compass” and believed that “they were untouchable and could do almost anything.” He added that instead of serving the public interest the papers fetishized “a faint interest by the public of being titillated.”
This is the first day of a week of hearings that will include testimony from several celebrities including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.