It emerged today that Surrey police knew that the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was being hacked by unethical News of the World journalists in 2002, but failed to act.
Independent Police Complaints Commission found the hacking of her voicemail was well known to all ranks of the force including senior officers, within the first few days of the search to find the teenager.
The report states that senior officers were “afflicted by a form of collective amnesia”.
IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said:
“We will never know what would have happened had Surrey police carried out an investigation into the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone in 2002.
“Phone hacking was a crime and this should have been acted upon, if not in 2002, then later, once the News of the World’s widespread use of phone hacking became a matter of public knowledge and concern.
“Our investigation has heard from officers and former officers from Surrey police who have expressed surprise and dismay that it wasn’t investigated.
“We have not been able to uncover any evidence, in documentation or witness statements, of why and by whom that decision was made – former senior officers, in particular, appear to have been afflicted by a form of collective amnesia in relation to the events of 2002.
“This is perhaps not surprising, given the events of 2011 and the public outcry that the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone produced.
“However, it is scarcely credible that no one connected to the Milly Dowler investigation recognised the relevance and importance of the information Surrey police held in 2002 before this was disclosed by Operation Weeting.
“Surrey police has apologised to the Dowler family for their failure and they were right to do so.”
The IPCC blamed the “unhealthy relationship between the police and the media” for the failure to investigate.