Investigator hacked cell phone of murdered girl

The scandal over phone hacking at a News Corp.-owned paper in the U.K. has re-ignited after allegations that a private investigator it hired hacked into the cell phone of a missing schoolgirl who was later found murdered.

On Tuesday prime minister David Cameron described the allegations against the News of the World as “truly dreadful.” A three-hour emergency debate on the issue will take place in parliament today.

The latest allegations, which concern 13-year-old Milly Dowler who was murdered in 2002, come as the government prepares to greenlight News Corp.’s contentious takeover of the 61% slice of pay TV platform BSkyB it doesn’t own.

Asked if the developments would affect the deal, Cameron said he would not intervene as that was a decision being taken by media minister Jeremy Hunt. He has until Friday to take account of the latest public consultation on the BSkyB takeover.

Monday it was alleged that the News of the World employed a private investigator to eavesdrop on Dowler’s phone after she went missing. The actions caused her parents to believe that she may have still been alive and likely jeopardized the police inquiry into the murder.

News Intl., the subsidiary of News Corp. that owns the News of the World, said the development was of great concern.

The Guardian, the paper that has persistently pursued the phone hacking story, claimed that the private investigator intercepted messages left by relatives for Dowling and deleted some messages he had listened to when the voicemail was full.

At the time, the paper’s editor was Rebekah Brooks, now News Intl.’s chief executive. She denied knowledge of the hacking and told staff that she was “sickened” by the allegations.

Labour Party leader David Milliband called for Brooks’ resignation. If Brooks is forced to ankle, other senior heads could roll. Brooks is close to News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, whose son James ran the U.K. division until recently.

Automobile giant Ford has withdrawn its advertising from the paper and others may follow suit.

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