Monday 4 July 2011


What is unacceptable?

On 21 March 2002, Milly Dowler, aged 13, disappeared on her way home from school.
My daughter, at that time, was ten; small and blond... she looked very like Milly.
After Milly's disappearance, we bought her a phone, and freaked out everytime she was more than five minutes late.
A month after Milly's killer was finally brought to justice, The Guardian newspaper ran a shocking report about her disappearance.
Phone-tapping by journalists has made news before. Unreal? Sadly not.
Amongst the newspapers keen to report on Milly’s disappearance was the News of the World; their journalists targeted the missing schoolgirl's family. They illegally intercepted her phone messages.
The family lawyer describes the News of the World's activities as "heinous" and "despicable".
Journalists hacked into her messages. Awful. They didn’t stop there.
Scotland Yard is investigating evidence that the paper hacked into Milly’s voicemail and as her friends and parents called and left messages begging Milly to get in touch with them, the News of the World listened and recorded every word.
Although that was a terrible invasion of privacy, they didn’t stop there.
When Milly's voicemail box filled up it wouldn’t accept any more messages. The News of the World deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance.
This was sickening but they didn’t stop there.
When the Police realised the messages had been deleted, Milly’s friends and relatives were given false hope; they believed she might still be alive.
This was agonisingly awful, but the News of the World didn’t stop there.
When the Dowler family granted an exclusive interview it was to the News of the World.
Sally Dowler, reported that Milly’s messages had been deleted so she might be alive. The tearful Mum told the journalist: "If Milly walked through the door, I don't think we'd be able to speak. We'd just weep tears of joy and give her a great big hug."
Listening to the Dowler’s when they explained what gave them hope and reporting it in the newspaper was heinous.
The newspaper had destroyed evidence and confused the Police investigation.
The Dowler family will be pursuing a claim against the News of the World I hope they use the same ruthless, callous determination they learned at the hands of the paper itself.

I planned a cheerful Happy Canada Day and Independence Day blog post but now my thoughts are with the Dowler's and other families who have been affected by such a terrible loss.


  1. That's such a tragic story, Elaine. I'm with you 100%. We have a Murdoch-owned "news" network in the US that has manufactured a fake political movement made up of uneducated, frightened old people who are being duped into voting away their own pensions and rights in order to line the pockets of billionaires. I wish our schools would educate people to question what they read and hear as "news"

  2. Gosh. There are enough tragic events happening and being reported in the news already--do people really need to go around and create more of it?

  3. Hi Anne
    Miserable. The UK was spun a great tale last week about public sector pensions: "everyone else is worse off these days so why not cut back their pensions and create a sub-basement level of entitlement for all?" GREAT IDEA! Words have power.And newspapers make rather than report news.

    Hi GE
    To hack a missing child's phone and delete the evidence is foul and it added an extra layer of tragedy for the family as well as making the newspaper more money. So sad.

  4. That is disgusting. How could people electronically break into people's homes like that? And during what is perhaps the most painful, heart wrenching time of their lives? Under the guise of news? This is almost as unimaginably horrible as what happened to their daughter.

  5. That's a tragic story. I don't think children's abductions and murders should be headlines. They generate fear and headlines so that people will buy papers not to help anyone. The saddest thing is that the stats support that most children are generally abducted or murdered (something like 90%???- it's really high. At least in the States it is) by a family member or friend... someone close to the family and others are simply runaways. This means that most people are driven to hysteria about childhood abductions for nothing. Well, not nothing but it's more media generated fear than it is reality. And then there is this kind of behavior where the press actually get in the way of a real abduction and cause real harm. The media is corporately owned and driven by profit- they won't change unless we make them break off from their corporate heads. I just don't think we will make them. We are too entertained by spectacle even as we are horrified -not all of us clearly but as a society.

  6. Hi JE
    I agree, it was a horrible thing to do. The worst of it being the wasted Police hours diverted from the murderer who lived on the route Milly took home.

    Hi Danette
    I agree, the lengths the journalist was prepared to go to get a story was shocking. To interfere with the investigation and cause the family additional heartbreak was sickening and all to generate sales for the newspaper.