British police face new claims in Murdoch tabloid scandal

AFP , Sunday 24 Jul 2011

Some British police officers face allegations of leaking details about a murdered schoolgirl and terror attack victims to journalists at Murdoch's News of the World

Rupert Murdoch owner of the News of the World newspaper. (PHOTO: REUTERS)

British police faced new allegations Sunday that officers leaked details about terror attack victims and a murdered schoolgirl to journalists at Rupert Murdoch's felled News of the World tabloid.

The claims deepen the scandal surrounding phone-hacking at the paper, which has shaken Murdoch's global media empire, claimed the jobs of two of Britain's top police officers and dragged in Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Observer newspaper reported that survivors of the July 7, 2005 London bombings had asked lawyers to probe their belief that the capital's Metropolitan Police had sold or passed on a confidential contact list of victims.

Beverli Rhodes, chair of the Survivors Foundation Coalition, told the Observer that journalists from the paper approached survivors with false stories about how they got their details.

"Scotland Yard had the full list of survivor contact details. I am pretty sure that is how the News of the World got my home address," she said.

Four suicide bombers blew themselves up on three underground trains and a bus in the worst terror attacks on British soil, killing 52 people.

Separately the BBC reported that police had removed an officer from the inquiry into the murder of 13-year-old Milly Dowler in 2002 after information was allegedly leaked to the News of the World (NotW).

Police in Surrey, a county southwest of London, confirmed that a detective constable was accused by a colleague of inappropriately disclosing information about the case to a "retired police officer friend."

The officer "received words of advice and was removed permanently from the inquiry," the force said in a statement. It did not mention the NotW.

The tabloid has already been accused of hacking Dowler's voicemails and those of families of 7/7 victims, but this is the first time police have directly been linked to the paper's activities on the two events.

Murdoch has now closed the NotW and personally apologised to Dowler's parents.

Revlations that police employed a former NotW executive who has since been arrested over hacking claimed the jobs of Scotland Yard chief Paul Stephenson and the force's anti-terror boss John Yates a week ago.

Scotland Yard was heavily criticised for botching an initial investigation, which resulted in the jailing of the paper's former royal editor and a private investigator in 2007 but concluded he was was a "rogue reporter."

When the force bowed to pressure and reopened the probe in January it emerged that nearly 4,000 people may have had their phones hacked, including celebrities, politicians, royals and crime victims.

Other British papers were dragged into the row this weekend when former journalists at the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror -- Murdoch's main British tabloid rivals -- reportedly said phone-hacking was rife at their papers too.

But the main effects have been on Murdoch's US-based News Corporation.

In a further blow British Business Secretary Vince Cable said Sunday there were "big questions" over whether the mogul was fit to control a British broadcaster.

News Corp. was forced by the scandal to scrap its bid for full control of pay-TV giant BSkyB earlier this month.

Cable was stripped of responsibility for deciding the fate of the BSkyB deal last year after a newspaper secretly recorded him saying he was at "war" with Murdoch.

The scandal has forced out two of Murdoch's top aides: Rebekah Brooks, News of the World editor at the time of the Dowler hacking and chief of his British newspaper wing News International, and Dow Jones chief Les Hinton.

Murdoch's son James meanwhile faces calls for a police probe into evidence he gave to lawmakers last week saying he did not know hacking was more widespread.

Meanwhile premier Cameron has also come under pressure due to his decision to employ Andy Coulson, another former editor of the tabloid, as his media chief.

Coulson then quit Downing Street in January and was arrested on July 8. Ten people have been detained since January.

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