News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks told staff she was 'appalled and shocked'by allegations the News of the World hacked the voicemail messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler but had no plans to resign from the company.
In an email sent to staff today, Brooks said she was "sickened'by the allegations not only because she was editor of the newspaper at the time of Milly's disappearance but because of the 'devastating effect'on the Dowler family.
In the email Brooks said she had written to Milly's parents to 'assure them News International will vigorously pursue the truth and that they will be the first to be informed of the outcome of our investigation."
NI's lawyers have written to the family's solicitor Mark Lewis 'to ask him to show us any of the evidence he has so we can swiftly take the appropriate action".
She claimed that at the moment, 'we only know what we have read".
'Since 2006, when the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) seized the documentation from the private investigator Glen Mulcaire, News International has had no visibility on the evidence available,'she said.
'The process of discovery is complicated. The MPS first present relevant documents to potential victims. We only see the evidence much later during the legal process."
She added: 'It is almost too horrific to believe that a professional journalist or even a freelance inquiry agent working on behalf of a member of the News of the World staff could behave in this way.
'If the allegations are proved to be true then I can promise the strongest possible action will be taken as this company will not tolerate such disgraceful behaviour.
'I hope that you all realise it is inconceivable that I knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations."
Earlier today Labour leader Ed Miliband called for Brooks to consider her position in light of the allegations, and joined shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper's calls for a public inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal. Miliband said Brooks should now 'consider her conscience and consider her position".
While she was aware of 'speculation'over her position at NI, Brooks said she was determined 'to lead the company to ensure we do the right thing and resolve these serious issues".
She also claimed that her editorships at the NoW and The Sun had been defined by 'the battle for better protection of children from paedophiles and better rights for the families and the victims of these crimes,'including the 10-year campaign for Sarah's Law.