Murdoch apologises to Dowler family

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by a Newsnet reporter

Rupert Murdoch has met with the family of murdered teenager Milly Dowler to apologise in person for the News of World hacking their daughter’s phone at an early stage of the enquiry into her disappearance. 

The hacking gave police and the family false hope that Milly might still be alive, and may have destroyed vital evidence which could have led police to apprehend the culprit, Levi Bellfield, much earlier.  Bellfield later went on to rape and murder at least two other young women.

According to a statement made by the Dowler family’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, Mr Murdoch’s apology had appeared sincere and the media mogul seemed to be humbled by recent events.  “I don’t think somebody could have held their head in their hands so many times and said that they were sorry,” said Mr Lewis.

News International also announced on Friday that an apology from the company would be published in all major print newspapers tomorrow.   In the apology, Mr Murdoch says: “We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred.  We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.  We regret not acting faster to sort things out.”

The statement, signed by Rupert Murdoch, continues by promising that the company will take “further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused.”

The change in the company’s attitude is a dramatic volte-face.  Only yesterday Mr Murdoch was insisting that his company had made only “minor mistakes” in its handling of the crisis and was reported as saying that he was getting “extremely annoyed” by all the negative coverage his company was attracting.  

The scandal continues to take scalps, amidst mounting calls for her resignation from all political parties and all sections of society, Rebekah Brooks announced yesterday that she would step down as Chief Executive of News International with immediate effect.  Ms Brooks’ resignation represents a dramatic U-turn, previously the News International executive had insisted that she was the “best person” to lead News Interational out of a crisis which now threatens to engulf the company’s global operations.  

In just four days time Ms Brooks, along with Rupert and James Murdoch, is due to appear before the Sport, Culture and Media select committee of the House of Commons, to answer MPs’ questions relating to the phone hacking and corruption scandal which resulted in the closure of the News of the World newspaper.  Ms Brooks was editor of the paper from 2000 until 2003, and was then editor of the Sun from 2003 until 2009.  A number of alleged phone-hacking attempts occurred during Ms Brooks time as editor of the News of the World.  Ms Brooks denies all knowledge of any wrongdoing.

In her statement, Ms Brooks said that she wished to concentrate on clearing her name, and to focus all her attention on “current and future enquiries”.  

The police have so far arrested seven people in connection with the phone hacking investigation.  More arrests are expected.  Fewer than 200 of the estimated 3,700 potential victims have been contacted by the police.