Sally Dowler: No sleep for three nights after hacking news

The father of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler said today that the “gravity” of revelations that his daughter’s phone was hacked had to be investigated.

Bob Dowler told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards it was “extremely important” that people understood the scale of illegal accessing of mobile voicemails by journalists.

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry in July after it emerged that the News of the World commissioned private detective Glenn Mulcaire to hack Milly’s phone after she disappeared in 2002.

Sitting alongside his wife Sally, Mr Dowler said: “The gravity of what had happened had to be investigated.

“I think there is a much bigger picture, obviously, but I think that given that we learned about those hacking revelations just before the trial for the murder of our daughter, it was extremely important that we understood and people understand exactly what went on in terms of these practices, to uncover this information from the hacking situation.”

Inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson expressed his sympathy for the Dowlers’ loss as he thanked them for agreeing to give evidence.

He said to the couple: “Can I thank you both for being prepared to come to the inquiry.

“You have done so voluntarily and I am very conscious that it is a strain.

“I can only sympathise with both of you for the appalling losses that you have suffered and for the traumas that you have undergone over many years.

“So I am very appreciative to both of you for being prepared to expose yourselves further to assist me in the work that I have to do.”

Mr Dowler was asked what he would say to News of the World publisher News International.

He told the inquiry: “We would sincerely hope that News International and other media organisations would look very carefully how they procure, how they obtain information about stories. Obviously, the ramifications are far greater than what appears in the press.”

Mrs Dowler added: “Use this opportunity to do things right in future and and have some decent standards.”

She told the judge that the revelation about her daughter’s phone being hacked had been “terribly difficult to process”.

Mrs Dowler rang her daughter’s phone repeatedly in the weeks after she vanished as she walked home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002, the inquiry into press standards was told.

“At first we were able to leave messages, and then her voicemail became full and then you rang and then you just got the recorded ‘you are unable to leave messages at the moment’,” she said.

Mrs Dowler continued calling 13-year-old Milly’s number and felt elation when she finally got through to her daughter’s recorded message.

She told the inquiry: “I rang her phone. It clicked through on to her voicemail, so I heard her voice and it was just like, ‘she’s picked up her voicemail, she’s alive’.

“When we were told about the hacking, that’s the first thing I thought.

“I spoke to Gemma (her other daughter) and then it sort of died down afterwards because you’re thinking, ‘is that the only reason it could have happened?’, or what have you.

“But like I told my friends, ‘She’s picked up her voicemail, she’s picked up her voicemail’.”

Mrs Dowler said the credit on Milly’s mobile phone was very low so police put more money on it.

But she could not remember how detectives reacted when she told them that her daughter appeared to have accessed her voicemails.

Mrs Dowler described the moment, just before the trial of a man accused of Milly’s murder, when police told her and her husband Bob that Mulcaire hacked their daughter’s phone.

She said: “We got a call from our FLO (police family liaison officer) to say that the Met Police wanted to see us and to tell us vaguely what it was about.

“As soon as I was told it was about phone hacking, literally I didn’t sleep for about three nights because you replay everything in your mind and just think, ‘oh, that makes sense now, that makes sense’.”

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