Guardian journalist Nick Davies refused to yield to demands for an apology from former New of the World staff at a Sky News debate today.
The Guardian reported on 4 July this year that the News of the World had hacked the voicemail messages of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler. But it has now made an amendment to that story stating:
“This article was updated on 9 and 11 December 2011. Since this story was published new evidence has led police to conclude that the News of the World was not responsible for the deletion of voicemails from Milly Dowler’s mobile phone that caused her parents to have false hopes that she was alive.”
The Met Police told the Leveson Inquiry this morning that it no longer believes the the NoW was responsible for the message deletions which created false hope for the Dowlers.
Former News of the World TV editor Tom Latchem said that a Guardian report on Saturday about the new evidence was “as clear as mud”.
Davies denied the suggestion that the new information was buried by The Guardian: ‘We wrote a whole new story, prominently displayed in Saturday’s paper and it is still prominently displayed on the website. “
A Twitter message from Hayley Barlow, who used to run PR for the News of the World, was read out: ‘Former News of the World staff demand Guardian apology over false claims the paper deleted Milly Dowler’s voicemails leading to the paper’s closure and 300 job losses.”
Davies said: “I agree the deletion was an important element, it did have an emotional impact, but it wasn’t the whole story. If you put into context the police had been all over the News of the World for six months by now and that they had thrown in their hand on all these civil actions it is delusional to try to pretend the new evidence of this one element of one story could have changed the outcome.”
Davies has also defended his reporting in a piece for The Guardian in which he says that the “new evidence also confirmed almost everything I had reported in July of this year. But one important element shifted: the police could no longer be sure exactly who had caused the particular deletions that led to that ‘false hope’ moment.”