The family of Milly Dowler, the teenage murder victim whose voicemail messages were illegally intercepted by the tabloid News of the World, has been offered a multimillion-dollar settlement by the newspaper’s parent company, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said on Monday.
The person said that the company, Rupert Murdoch’s News International, had offered about US$3.2 million to the Dowler family, with an additional payment of about US$1.6 million to go to charity.
News of the World is believed to have hacked into the voicemails of hundreds, possibly thousands, of people, including celebrities and politicians.
Widespread public revulsion resulted from the revelation in July that its victims included the 13-year-old Dowler, who disappeared in 2002 and whose messages were intercepted and erased to make room for new ones even as her family searched for her.
That disclosure ultimately led the Murdochs to close News of the World, the British government to open several inquiries into the matter and the police to expand their criminal investigation into the paper’s conduct.
Murdoch, who seemed unperturbed by the earlier accusations about his employees’ phone hacking, was demonstrably shaken by the news about Dowler.
He met with the Dowler family to apologize and later told a British parliamentary committee he had been humbled by the episode.
News International would not disclose the amounts currently under discussion.
If both parties agree to the current proposal, the settlement will be by far the largest so far in the hacking case.
In 2008, Gordon Taylor, a soccer executive, received about US$1.4 million from News International, the British newspaper arm of Murdoch’s News Corp.