UK phone-hacking victims condemn intrusion

Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:51pm EST
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By Kate Holton and Georgina Prodhan

LONDON (Reuters) - The parents of a murdered British schoolgirl pleaded on Monday for the country's newspapers to curb practices such as phone hacking and covert photography as a public inquiry into media standards turned the spotlight on the celebrity obsessed press.

The disclosure in July that a long-simmering row over phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid had spread from celebrities to a murder victim provoked an national outcry that led to the closure of the newspaper.

Within days, his News Corp group withdrew its bid to buy the 61 percent of broadcaster BSkyB it did not already own; its British newspaper arm News International shut the 168-year-old paper and Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the inquiry.

To a silent court room, Sally Dowler told how she had suddenly become excited during the hunt for her daughter when she realized that phone messages left on Milly's phone were being deleted - thinking, falsely, she was still alive.

Bob Dowler said the family had felt hounded and afraid to leave their home, with journalists popping up from behind hedges to fire questions, and photographers taking pictures during intensely private moments.

"It felt like such an intrusion into a really private grief moment," Sally Dowler told the central London court room.

The Dowlers, who have become key figures in the national debate about media practices, were appearing as the first witnesses in the inquiry as Hollywood stars and other high-profile figures unite to expose the press's tactics.

"One would sincerely hope that News International and other media organizations would sincerely look very carefully at how they procure, how they obtain information about stories," Bob Dowler told the inquiry.   Continued...