Sat, Jul 30, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Claims emerge of new hacking victim

LISTENING:Police have told Sara Payne, the mother of a child killed in 2000, that her cellphone, which was provided by the ‘News of the World,’ may have been hacked

AFP, LONDON

The phone-hacking scandal that stunned Britain and rocked Rupert Murdoch’s media empire deepened yesterday with claims that the mother of another murdered girl was targeted as an inquiry into the affair opened.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson, the judge appointed by British Prime Minister David Cameron to lead the probe, said on Thursday the inquiry would start by looking at media ethics and press regulation and vowed that he will order witnesses to testify.

The first public hearings would be held in September, he said.

However, just hours after Leveson spoke, the mother of a murdered girl on whose behalf the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid had campaigned relentlessly said she may have been targeted by a private investigator working for the now-defunct paper.

Sara Payne, the mother of eight-year-old Sarah Payne who was killed by a pedophile in 2000, was “absolutely devastated” after police told her that her voicemail might have been hacked by the paper.

News of the World had provided her with a mobile phone for the past 11 years, former editor Rebekah Brooks said.

Brooks worked with Sara Payne to campaign for tougher child protection laws during her 2000 to 2003 editorship of News of the World.

Brooks quit as head of News International, Murdoch’s British newspaper publishing arm, earlier this month and was arrested by Scotland Yard on suspicion of phone hacking.

Brooks said in a statement that the latest allegations were “-abhorrent” and “particularly upsetting” because Payne was a “dear friend.”

A News International spokesman said: “News International takes this matter very seriously and is deeply concerned, like everyone.”

The scandal erupted earlier this month after it emerged that News of the World, which has since been shut down, had hacked into the voicemails of Milly Dowler, a missing 13-year-old girl who was later found murdered.

It has since caused the resignations of two top British police officers, involved Cameron after he hired another former editor of the paper as his press chief and -threatened the stability of Murdoch’s global media empire.

At the first hearing of the hacking inquiry on Thursday, Leveson said the first stage would focus on the “relationship between the press and the public and the related issue of press regulation.”

Sitting at a cramped table alongside the six other panel members at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London, the bespectacled judge said he was entitled to compel witnesses to give evidence on phone-hacking.

“I intend to exercise those powers as soon as possible,” he said.

Evidence will be given under oath, an inquiry spokesman said.

Leveson said the inquiry would turn to press relationships with the police and politicians later on. He added that it could be difficult to meet Cameron’s 12-month deadline for an initial report.

The scandal has refused to go away since the jailing in 2007 of the News of the World’s former royal editor Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator in whose notes Sara Payne’s details were found.

Police eventually reopened the inquiry in January this year and discovered that up to 4,000 people may have had their phones hacked. Ten people have been arrested so far.

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