In a moving account, a mother on Monday recalled how she could not sleep for three days after it was revealed that her murdered daughter's phone was hacked byNews of the Worldjournalists in search of a story, and how at one stage the newspaper's action raised false hope that her child was still alive.
Sally Dowler, whose teenaged daughter, Milly, was abducted in March 2002 on her way home from school and was later found dead, struggled to hold back tears as she recalled the pain and anguish caused to the family because of the unwarranted media intrusion.
Ms. Dowler and her husband Bob were the first witnesses to appear before an independent commission, led by Lord Justice Brian Henry Leveson, inquiring into the phone hacking scandal. Revelations about the Dowler case led Rupert Murdoch to shut downNoWand to apologise to the Dowlers.
Actor Hugh Grant, one of the many celebrity victims of phone hacking, also gave evidence to the inquiry.
One of the most poignant moments of the day, however, was when Ms. Dowler recalled how she “jumped with joy” when she thought Milly could still be alive. This happened when after repeatedly finding Milly's voicemail full in the weeks after she went missing they were finally able to get through. When they heard Milly's voice: “I just jumped and said: ‘She's picked up her voicemails... she's alive'.”
Later, the family was to learn that the voicemail had become suddenly accessible as aNoWdetective had hacked it and deleted some of the messages.
“When we heard about the hacking that was the first thing I thought…As soon as I was told it was about phone hacking, literally I didn't sleep for about three nights because you replay everything in your mind and just think, ‘oh, that makes sense now, that makes sense',” she said.
The couple also recalled being secretly photographed byNoWand other tabloids.
“It felt like such an intrusion into a really, really private grief moment,” said Ms. Dowler.
Asked whether they wanted to say anything toNoW's publishers, Mr. Dowler said: “We would sincerely hope that News International and other media organisations would look very carefully how they procure, how they obtain information about stories. Obviously, the ramifications are far greater than what appears in the press.”