LONDON — Relatives of British servicemen who died in Iraq and Afghanistan may have had their phones hacked by the British tabloid that is also accused of intercepting voice mails of the families of terror victims and a slain 13-year-old girl, the Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.
The new accusations widened the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed the News of the World, Britain’s biggest-selling Sunday tabloid, and is drawing international media attention.
The Daily Telegraph said that “personal details of the families of servicemen who died on the front line” were discovered in records kept by Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who worked for News of the World.
The revelation raised the possibility that the relatives’ phones had been hacked. Earlier media reports accused the tabloid of intercepting the voice mails of celebrities, aides to the royal family, relatives of those killed in the 2005 terrorists attacks in London and the slain teen.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron called for a public inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal, telling the House of Commons, “I feel so appalled by what has happened; murder victims, terrorist victims who have had their phones hacked is quite disgraceful. That is why it is important that there is a full police investigation with all the powers they need.”
Cameron also said there was a need to “improve the ethics and morals of the press in this country.”
Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of News of the World and chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s influential News International, has faced growing pressure to resign. Ed Miliband, the leader of Britain’s opposition Labor Party, said she should “take responsibility and stand down.”
Cameron, who has not called for Brooks to quit, has been criticized for being too close to News International, the parent company of News of the World and its sister paper, the Sun. The newspapers vigorously backed his Conservative Party in the 2010 general election, which brought Cameron to power. Cameron reportedly spent last Christmas with Brooks.
John Lloyd, director of journalism at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, said that Cameron is in an awkward position regarding the scandal, as News International “inspires in any prime minister a certain amount of fear.
“Even though it’s now in deep trouble, it still packs a big punch,” Lloyd said. But he also said that, as a result of the scandal, he expects greater restrictions on what British tabloids can publish.
Cameron’s judgment has also been called into question with new claims this week that Andy Coulson, his former director of communications, approved payments of tens of thousands of pounds to police when he was the editor of News of the World. Coulson quit his government job in January, saying that although he denied any knowledge of illegal activity at the paper, the ongoing scandal was too much of a distraction.
Murdoch took the highly unusual step on Wednesday of issuing a statement publicly backing Brooks while describing the allegations leveled at the tabloid as “deplorable and unacceptable.”
Britons have expressed shock and outrage over the allegations of widespread phone hacking that may have included Graham Foulkes, whose son David died in the 2005 bombings in London.
Foulkes told the BBC that police contacted him on Tuesday night to tell him that his phone numbers, some of which were unlisted, were found in records kept by Mulcaire and seized by police.
“Janet and I were obviously having very intimate personal phone calls with friends and family. To think that when you’re at the lowest time in life that somebody, for the sake of a cheap story, is maybe listening to you, it’s just beyond words,” he said.
A number of companies, including Ford Motor Co., have pulled their advertising from News of the World to show their disapproval of the alleged hacking, and others say they are considering it.
Special correspondent Eliza Mackintosh contributed to this report.