A phone-hacking scandal cost the News of the World more advertisers and a prestigious link with military veterans on Thursday after another paper reported that the tabloid had collected the telephone numbers of relatives of slain troops.

The report in The Daily Telegraph newspaper did not cite any evidence that relatives’ phones had been hacked or that the newspaper had done anything illegal in obtaining their numbers. Nonetheless a storm of outrage followed.

“If these actions are proved to have been verified, I am appalled,” said Gen. David Richards, the head of the armed forces.

The commander of London’s Metropolitan Police, bowing to public concern about the rigor of its investigation of alleged illegal payments by the paper to officers, announced that the Independent Police Complaints Commission would supervise the probe.

“I will personally supervise this investigation to give independent oversight and ensure that it is robust in its attempts to identify any officer who may have committed an offense,” said Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the commission.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson said he was “determined” to see any officers who received payments facing criminal conviction.

“I am more than ashamed — I am determined to see them in a criminal court,” he told Sky News.

The share price of British Sky Broadcasting continued falling amid growing concern that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. -- the tabloid’s owner -- would be blocked from mounting a bid to take full control of the broadcaster.

J. Sainsbury, Britain’s third-largest supermarket group, energy company Npower, pharmacy chain Boots and mobile phone company O2 announced that they were withdrawing advertising from the paper, joining Ford, Vauxhall and others which previously backed out.

The Royal British Legion, one of the nation’s most revered institutions, said it was dropping the News of the World as a partner in campaigns on veterans’ issues and had suspended all other ties until the allegations are resolved.

“We can’t with any conscience campaign alongside News of the World on behalf of armed forces families while it stands accused of preying on these same families in the lowest depths of their misery,” the Legion said. “The hacking allegations have shocked us to the core.”

The Daily Telegraph did not identify the source for its report, which could not be independently verified. There was no indication whether any of those telephones had been hacked.

The News of the World issued a statement saying it would be “absolutely appalled and horrified” if there was any truth in the allegation.

Keywords: phone-hacking

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