July 13, 2024

Scandal Grows Over Hacking of Girl’s Cell

Prominent politicians chastised the company and Ms. Brooks, and Ford Motor Company suspended advertising in The News of the World, the tabloid that has faced a long-running scandal over the widespread interception of voice mail messages of celebrities and other public figures.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Tuesday that Ms. Brooks should “consider her conscience and consider her position” after the disclosures.

“It wasn’t a rogue reporter,” Mr. Miliband said. “It wasn’t just one individual. This was a systematic series of things that happened, and what I want from executives at News International is people to start taking responsibility for this.” News International is the News Corporation’s British newspaper division, and Ms. Brooks is now its chief executive.

Prime Minister David Cameron took time out from a visit to British troops in Afghanistan to lament what he called a “truly dreadful situation.” The police, he added, “should investigate this without any fear, without any favor, without any worry about where the evidence should lead them.”

Adding to the pressure, Ford Motor Company said it was suspending advertising until the newspaper concluded its investigation into the episode. “We are awaiting an outcome from The News of the World investigation and expect a speedy and decisive response,” Ford said in a statement released to news agencies. Under an onslaught of Twitter messages demanding a boycott of the paper, several other companies said they were reviewing their advertising policies.

Late Tuesday, The Guardian reported that the police would review every highly publicized murder, kidnapping or assault involving a child since 2001 for evidence of phone hacking. That would include the notorious case of Madeleine McCann, the 3-year-old who disappeared while her family was on vacation in Portugal in 2007.

In another development, Channel 4 reported on Tuesday that Ms. Brooks met with the police in 2002 over accusations that the tabloid had placed a senior Metropolitan police detective under surveillance.

The detective was investigating the murder of a private investigator who had been found dead with an ax buried in the back of his head. The chief suspect at the time was the dead man’s business partner, a private investigator who earned a six-figure salary supplying The News of the World with confidential information. Nothing apparently came of the inquiry into The News of the World’s surveillance.

Scotland Yard detectives were also investigating whether the phones of some families of victims of the bombings of three London subway trains and a double-decker bus in July 2005 had also been hacked, The Telegraph reported.

In his remarks, Mr. Cameron did not mention Ms. Brooks, but his comments were notable because, like other British politicians, he has cultivated social connections with News Corporation executives like Ms. Brooks and Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive of the company. Mr. Cameron, along with Gordon Brown, the Labour prime minister at the time, was a guest at the reception following Ms. Brooks’s marriage to her second husband, Charlie Brooks, in 2009.

Ms. Brooks vowed to “pursue the facts with vigor and integrity,” saying she had no intention of quitting.

“I am aware of the speculation about my position,” she said in a memo to News International employees. “Therefore it is important you all know that as chief executive, I am determined to lead the company to ensure we do the right thing and resolve these serious issues.”

The allegations center on one of the most sensational Fleet Street stories of the last decade, the disappearance of Milly Dowler in 2002. The case was the subject of many tabloid front pages over the last decade, culminating last month in the conviction of Levi Bellfield, a former nightclub doorman, on charges of kidnapping and murder.

The allegation that investigators working for The News of the World may have had ordinary people like the Dowlers, not just celebrities, in their sights has raised the level of alarm in Britain over tabloid newspaper excesses.

Sarah Lyall reported from London, and Eric Pfanner from Paris.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/06/world/europe/06britain.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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