In 2002, 13-year-old Milly Dowler went missing. In the days following her disappearance, the family left frantic phone messages on her cell, clogging her voicemail, until it was too full and could not accept any more. Then, suddenly, the voicemail cleared and her family could leave messages again.
The family suddenly had hope that Milly Dowler might be alive.
They were wrong. The girl had been murdered. Instead, a private investigator who worked for News of the World, a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, allegedly hacked into her phone and deleted the messages.
The allegations, first brought forth by the Guardian on Monday, have infuriated the U.K. The Dowlers’ family lawyer, Mark Lewis, said in a statement to the Guardian that the actions were “heinous” and “despicable.”
There have been calls for Rebekah Brooks, then editor of News of the World and now chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s News International, to resign. Brooks quickly responded to the allegations in a letter on the Sky News site, saying she had no knowledge of the allegations.
“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,” Brooks wrote.
Social media campaigns have started to get companies to stop advertising with the News of the World and to stop carrying the newspaper. A new Web site allows protesters to tweet at the advertisers in a constant stream of messages asking, “Do you consider it ethical to stock a newspaper prepared to hack a murdered girl’s phone?”
This is not the only attack on Murdoch’s media empire this week. Petitioners are calling on the Cameron government to refuse a deal to go through that will allow Murdoch to own all of British Sky Broadcasting. Protesters have started to flood the government with e-mails asking they stop the deal until a full judicial inquiry into the hacking scandal takes place.