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LONDON – Bob and Sally Dowler, the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, asked Rupert Murdoch to use phone-hacking as “an opportunity” to clean up the way his newspapers operated, when they met the News Corp. boss in July.
Speaking at the Leveson Inquiry on Monday, Milly Dowler’s parents said they had met with Rupert Murdoch after the details of the phone-hacking had been made public in, a revelation that eventually lead to the closure of the 168-year-old newspaper.
“It was a very tense meeting,” said Sally Dowler, going on to add, “he [Rupert Murdoch] was very sincere.”
Giving evidence in a packed courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Sally Dowler said their daughter Gemma had implored the News Corp. chief executive to make right the newspaper practices that had been exposed as so wrong.
“As my daughter Gemma said to Mr Murdoch – ‘use this as an opportunity to put things right in the future, have some decent standards and adhere to them.'”
Her husband Bob also called on News International to recognise the gravity of what it had done wrong.
“One would sincerely hope that News International and other media operations would look very carefully at how they procure information about stories.”
Milly Dowler’s phone voicemail had been hacked by News of The World investigator Glenn Mulcaire in the days after the 13-year-old was reported missing in 2002. Mulcaire deleted a number of messages on the teenager’s phone – giving her family false hope for a period that she was still alive.
Sally Dowler told the Leveson Inquiry how excited she had become when she had been able to leave a message on her daughter’s phone, the implication of which was that Milly herself had deleted messages to leave room on her voicemail service.
“She’s picking up her voice mails Bob, she’s alive, she’s alive,” she told the Inquiry.
The Dowlers also give instances of events they believed suggested that their own phones had been accessed by the investigator.
The Dowlers appeared immensely composed during the 30-minute evidence session, but Sally Dowler’s voice appeared to break when she retold the moment that she believed that her daughter was alive.
The Dowlers are the first in a long line of witnesses expected to testify this about the impact of phone hacking and media intrusion in their lives, with Hugh Grant expected later on Monday.
Last month the Dowler family agreed a $3.3 million compensation settlement with News International over the phone-hacking, the biggest such payout in the U.K. to date, with a further $1.6 million donation from News International to a series of charities nominated by the Dowler family.
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