Several former NOTW staff have taken to Twitter to elicit an apology from the Guardian newspaper for making the initial accusations of phone hacking, which led to the eventual closure of News Of The World.
Hayley Barlow tweeted: “Former #NotW staff demand Guardian apology over false claims paper deleted Milly Dowler’s voicemails leading to closure and 300 jobs losses.”
Meanwhile a Guardian spokesman said: “Our story on July 4 accurately reported the facts about the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone known at the time. It is uncontested that in April 2011, Metropolitan Police detectives told Sally Dowler that the News of the
World had been responsible for hacking Milly’s phone and deleting messages on it.
“Subsequent investigation by Operation Weeting has confirmed the key details reported by the Guardian: that the News of the
World commissioned Glenn Mulcaire to hack into Milly’s phone; that he succeeded; that journalists listened to some deeply personal messages; and that Surrey police knew this at the time and took no action.
“Although the investigation has found that the News of the World was not responsible for the particular deletion of voicemails which caused Milly’s parents to have false hope that she was alive, the new evidence also suggests that it is likely the paper’s staff were inadvertently responsible for deleting later messages.
“The central and most serious allegation of the Milly Dowler hacking story was that the paper had hacked the phone of a teenage murder victim, behaviour David Cameron described as “absolutely disgusting”. Only six weeks ago Rupert Murdoch himself, with four months to consider the evidence, described the News of the World’s conduct in the Dowler case as “abhorrent and awful.”
The row comes as former NOTW journalists including chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.
Thurlbeck was fired by News International in September after being arrested in April on suspicion of hacking phones while working at the tabloid.
He was deemed to have had a crucial role in the scandal since details emerged of a June 2005 email headed “for Neville” which contained transcripts of illegally intercepted voicemail messages.
The email, which surfaced in April 2008, appeared to contradict News International’s previous stance that phone hacking at the NOTW was confined to a single “rogue reporter”.
Mr Thurlbeck has insisted he played “no part” in the matter that led to his dismissal and has lodged employment tribunal papers against News International.