UK police probed for passing dead teen details to tabloid

12th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's police watchdog said Friday it is investigating claims that a police officer handed information on the murdered teenager at the centre of the phone hacking scandal to the News of the World.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC) said it had received a report from a police force in Surrey, southeast England, that one of its officers tipped off journalists about Milly Dowler's case.

The 13-year-old went missing in 2002 near her home in Walton-on-Thames near London, sparking a high-profile manhunt. Her remains were found six months later in a forest, although her killer, Levi Bellfield, was not convicted until this June.

It emerged after the trial that journalists at the News of the World may have hacked Dowler's voicemail in the first few days after she went missing, and even deleted messages, giving false hope to her family and police that she was alive.

The revelations sparked public disgust and caused the simmering scandal over phone hacking at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid to explode, resulting in the closure of the 168-year-old title in July.

News that the police may have been involved in passing information about Dowler's case to the press is likely to spark renewed public revulsion.

"The IPCC has received a voluntary referral from Surrey Police regarding information they received alleging that a Surrey officer gave information to the News of the World in relation to the investigation into Milly Dowlers murder in 2002," the police watchdog said in a statement.

"A decision has been made that the IPCC will independently investigate."

It said that an IPCC investigator would be writing to the Dowlers' solicitor, and added that "until we have shared further detail with him it would not be appropriate for us to make it public".

© 2011 AFP

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