Former News of the World deputy features editor Paul McMullan today defended the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone in 2002 by journalists working for the paper.
McMullan said he empathised completely with the Dowlers because last summer his two-year-old son went missing for 20 minutes after a side gate was left open in his garden: “It was one of the most powerful emotions that you can feel.”
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But he added that the British police are on the whole ‘a bunch of Inspector Clouseaus”.
McMullan, who was not working for the News of the World at the time of Milly’s disappearance, said: ‘Our intentions were good, our intentions were honourable, we were trying our best to find the little girl. The police were utterly incompetent, they should be ashamed that the man who killed her was able to carry onâ€¦
‘The press and a free press that strays into a grey area is a good thing for democracy and a good for the country.”
Earlier on he spoke of his regret at writing about a vulnerable drug addict who went on to kill herself after being ‘humiliated’in the News of the World
McMullan told the Inquiry how in 1995 a policeman based at Chalk Farm police station in north London tipped off the News of the World that the daughter of film star Denholm Elliott was a drug addict begging on the streets.
He described how he offered her £50 for sex and went back to her flat and took photos of her topless. The News of the World then published a story about how she was drug addict and a prostitute. Jennifer Elliott killed herself in 2003.
McMullan said: ‘Here was someone who was crying out for help, not crying out to do a News of the World storyâ€¦I did really want to help her but I was driven to write the best story I couldâ€¦
‘A police officer had come across her and should have helped her, instead he phoned the News of the World. When I heard a few years later that she had killed herself, that was one that I really regret.”