Murdoch's News Int. to pay £2mln to slain girl's family

21st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

News International confirmed Friday it would pay £2 million to the family of a murdered girl at the heart of Britain's phone-hacking scandal, just hours before Rupert Murdoch faces angry shareholders.

In a joint statement with the family of Milly Dowler, Murdoch said he would personally donate £1 million ($1.6 million, 1.15 million euros) to charities chosen by the family, saying it "underscores my regret" for the actions of the now-defunct News of the World.

Murdoch closed down the top-selling Sunday tabloid in July but faces a rocky ride Friday at his News Corporation's annual shareholders' meeting in Los Angeles, with calls for him and his sons to be ousted.

"When I met with the Dowlers in July, I expressed how deeply sorry I was for the hurt we had caused this family," Murdoch said in the statement.

"The behaviour that the News of the World exhibited towards the Dowlers was abhorrent and I hope this donation underscores my regret for the companys role in this awful event.

"I also hope that through the personal donation something positive can be done in memory of their daughter."

Reports of the settlement by News International -- the British newspaper arm of US-based News Corp. -- first emerged in September but had not been confirmed by the firm.

The 168-year-old News of the World was shut down after a public outcry when it emerged a private investigator working for the paper hacked into Milly Dowler's voicemail after she went missing in 2002.

The 13-year-old's remains were found six months later in a forest.

The phone hacking only emerged after her killer was brought to justice this year.

"Nothing that has been agreed will ever bring back Milly or undo the traumas of her disappearance and the horrendous murder trial earlier this year," the Dowler family said in the statement.

"The only way that a fitting tribute could be agreed was to ensure that a very substantial donation to charity was made in Millys memory. We hope that projects will be undertaken so that some good can come from this."

The charities that Murdoch will donate to are the Shooting Star Chase; Child Victims of Crime; the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to reduce fear of crime; the Hampton Pool Trust;; and Cancer Research.

News International has also settled dozens of other -- but less expensive -- compensation claims from celebrities and other public figures whose phones were hacked.

Murdoch and his sons are likely to escape the calls for them to be toppled given that his family control about 40 percent of the shares in News Corp. and that Murdoch-backing billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns an additional 7.0 percent.

Nevertheless it promises to be dramatic, after a British lawmaker who was a leading figure in a parliamentary probe into the hacking scandal plans to make allegations about News Corp.'s use of surveillance at the AGM.

"I want to leave investors in no doubt that News Corporation is not through the worst of this yet," member of parliament Tom Watson said, according to the Guardian newspaper, which exposed the full extent of the scandal.

© 2011 AFP

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