Wednesday 22 August 2012

The Milly Dowler Hacking - Part 1: Questions Still Unanswered

Here's the first part of a re-examination of the Milly Dowler phone hacking from a regular contributor.  Part 1 looks at the background to Dowler hackings and highlights some early warning signs, particularly in the interplay between the Metropolitan Police Service and Surrey Police.  Part 2 considers points at which specific evidence of the Dowler family as victims of News of the World 'dark arts' practices remained overlooked for almost a decade.

1999  Operation Nigeria - This was a Metropolitan Police Service (MET) covert operation (into the murder of Daniel Morgan) which bugged the premises of a private investigator, Jonathan Rees, in Thornton Heath, SURREY.  It eavesdropped on evidence of corrupt practices by private investigators, MET police officers and journalists. Three private investigators implicated were John GUNNING, John BOYALL and Glenn MULCAIRE (more on these below). 

Subsequently, two MET officer associates of Rees were convicted in a long-term operation into police corruption in South East London - one of the investigating officers was then Detective Superintendent John YATES. Simultaneously, and also investigating MET corruption allegations, the Head of MET Professional Standards Department was Andy HAYMAN. When YATES moved on to a different post, he was replaced by Bob QUICK.

In 2000, Bob QUICK wrote a report on the increasing dangers of journalists corrupting police officers, with suspect private investigators often acting as brokers. QUICK's report was submitted to the Head of the MET Professional Standards Department, Andy HAYMAN (see page 5 of Quick's Leveson statement).

This context demonstrates how, from 1999 onwards, key senior officers at the MET were aware of the potential for a corrupt nexus of private investigators, police and newspaper journalists. Self-evidently, YATES, HAYMAN and QUICK were sensitised to these kinds of corrupt 'dark arts' - the modus operandi was already on their radar.

Jan 02  Operation REPROOF commenced.  It was a Devon and Cornwall investigation into illicit data access by corrupt officers, procured by suspect private investigators nationwide - including John BOYALL (implicated in Operation Nigeria). 

Feb-Mar 02 Operation REPROOF contacted the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) re perceived data offences; the catalyst for initiating Operation MOTORMAN.

Devon and Cornwall Police also informed several constabularies of evidence pointing to potential corruption in their respective forces. One force - in addition to the MET - informed of suspected corrupt officers was SURREY Police.

21st Mar 02  Milly Dowler disappears from Walton-on Thames, SURREY.  The following timeline (where *asterisked*) is based on that given to the Leveson Inquiry
* 25th Mar 02  SURREY Police apply legal authority to "preserve" Milly Dowler's mobile phone voicemail messages.  There is no evidence that her voicemail was acessed by the News of the World (NotW) prior to this.
10.57  Milly's PIN number was re-set by Mercury, thus dis-enabling Milly's own PIN.
15.19  Mercury re-set the PIN again - no explanation has been given for this anomaly as to why this second Mercury re-set was necessary.  A first download of Milly's voicemails messages was undertaken.

Here there is a disturbing discrepancy.  Instead of enlisting technical assistance from Mercury, SURREY Police say they engaged a specialist forensic phone data company to do the download but this attempt was unsuccessful.  The un-named company deny undertaking any such work (pp9-10).

This contradiction has yet to be resolved, as are the questions of why a private company was decided on, which company exactly, and on whose recommendation.

Late Mar/ early Apr 02 News of the World (NotW) commission private investigator Steve WHITTAMORE to obtain personal information about the Dowler family. The tasking can be found in the Operation MOTORMAN Blue Book.

A NotW journalist, Sarah Arnold, sought the home address of the Dowlers and relevant ex-directory (XD) telephone numbers. The XD number procurement was subcontracted by Whittamore to John GUNNING (implicated in Operation Nigeria).

*  12th Apr 02  A female from NotW telephoned an employment agency in the West Mercia region, purporting to be Milly Dowler's mother.

*  13th Apr 02  The employment agency was 'beseiged' by NotW reporters.  NotW phoned SURREY Police several times that day, asking to speak urgently to the Milly Dowler investigation team.  SURREY Police telephoned NotW back and were informed by NotW that they had obtained Milly's mobile phone number and PIN from her school friends.

An either/or scenario needs considering here. Did NotW use Milly's original PIN - obtained from her friends - to access voicemails between (at the earliest) 24th March and (at the latest) 26th March when that PIN was re-set? If so, NotW then waited until 12th April to inform Surrey Police.

Or, did NotW acess her voicemails post-26th March, ie AFTER the two PIN re-sets?  How was this possible and who did the hacking?


*  17th Apr 02 Surrey Police do a second download of voicemail messages

*  20th Apr 02 NotW email SURREY Police and offer their recordings of Milly's voicemails. Later the same day, NotW phoned SURREY Police and played back Milly's voicemails over the phone.

*  23rd Apr 02  Detective Constable John Lyndon of SURREY Police logged his suspicions that NotW had been hacking Milly Dowler's mobile phone voicemails.

There is at this point an important discrepancy regarding meetings between NotW and SURREY Police.  As reported in The Independent, senior news staff of NotW met twice in April 02 with SURREY Police investigating officers, Craig DENHOLM and Stuart Gibson.

In these meetings, NotW made no secret of the fact that they had caused Milly's mobile phone to be hacked.

The Independent's report also states that minutes of one of the meetings exist still in the un-used Milly Dowler evidence files.  There is no mention of these April meetings in the SURREY Police timeline evidenced to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in 2012, nor in MET evidence given to the Leveson Inquiry in May 2012.

Mid-April 02 seems to be when SURREY Police knew definitively that Milly Dowler's voicemails had been hacked by, or at the behest of, NotW.  Arguably, this is the critical point at which action to stop NotW dubious practices could have been taken.

So, hacking of Milly's mobile was known to SURREY Police. In addition, Steve WHITTAMORE's files contained evidence of NotW's procurement of the numbers of Milly Dowler family's phones - awaiting discovery by Operation MOTORMAN.

Tomorrow, part 2 tracks the subsequent actions, inactions and missed opprtunities which conspired to keep the Dowler family ignorant of NotW wrongdoing...

Related Posts
The Milly Dowler Hacking - Part 2: Discrepancies And Delays
The Milly Dowler Hacking - Part 3: A Short Postscript
Hackgate for Beginners
Surrey Police and the Hacking of Milly Dowler's Phone
Bloggerheads - News of the World: 110% certainty, the remainder fact

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at


  1. Must follow you more closely, great stuff.

  2. Odd that the police are so closely linked with phone hacking and that none of them are ever punished. Free Masons or just plain old mendacity and corruption?