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Dowlers believed murdered daughter Milly was still alive after phone hacking

The mother of the murdered teenager told the Leveson Inquiry today that she believed it was her daughter who had been deleting voice messages from her phone.

Undated police image of Milly Dowler.
Undated police image of Milly Dowler.
Image: Surrey Police/PA Archive

THE MOTHER of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler has told an inquiry into phone hacking allegations that she believed her daughter was still alive after being able to leave a new voicemail message on her daughter’s previously full account.

The 13-year-old went missing on her way home from school in March 2002 and her body was found six months later. Earlier this year, Levi Bellfield, 43, was convicted of her abduction and murder.

Dowler’s parents continued calling her mobile phone in a vain attempt to contact their missing daughter in the weeks following her disappearance.

Today, Sally Dowler told the Leveson Inquiry that when she was finally able to leave a new message on her daughter’s phone, she shouted to her husband: “She’s picked up the voicemails, Bob! She’s alive!”

(Video uploaded by itnnews)

It later emerged that the messages that were deleted from her voicemail account were removed by a person working for the News of the World newspaper.

Dowler also told the inquiry of her family’s dismay at seeing photographs in the News of the World of her and her husband Bob which were taken while they retraced their daughter’s steps in a private walk together.

“It just felt like such an intrusion into a really, really private grief moment,” she said.

The Dowlers said that they believed photographers were notified about their walk by tapping into their own phone, not just Milly’s phone.

The couple met with the newspaper’s owner Rupert Murdoch earlier this year after reports of the phone hacking emerged. Today, they described that meeting as “tense” and said Murdoch “was very sincere”.

In July, Murdoch ran full-page ad apologies across Britain’s main national newspapers apologising for the hacking which read:

We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected. We regret not acting faster to sort things out.

Last month, Murdoch’s News International agreed to pay £2 million to the Dowlers in an apparent move towards settlement with the family, while Murdoch paid another £1 million to the charities of their choice.

This afternoon, actor Hugh Grant is giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Watch live: Celebrities give evidence at the Leveson inquiry into media ethics >

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