James Murdoch has closed down a newspaper that for some was a British Institution. Sunday paper the News of the World has been published for 168 years with recent circulation figures of 2.8 million, and was often as decried as it was admired. It had a reputation for unveiling scandals and scoops, revelations about celebrities and stars, mixing sex and politics. The paper broke numerous stories.
But this time the scandal is too shocking. Amongst the 4,000 alleged victims of phone hacking is 13-year old Milly Dowler who went missing in 2002. As a nationwide search was launched it is alleged that News of the World staff accessed her voice mail.
It is further claimed that the box was full, so in order that new messages could be left, old ones were erased, destroying evidence which could have been crucial, and leading the family to believe that Milly was still alive. And it is claimed the paper also bugged families and friends of those killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and the terrorist attacks of 2005.
In 2007 the paper’s royal correspondent Clive Goodman was arrested over phone bugging allegations involving various celbrities as well as the royal family. He and ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson have been arrested over the latest scandal.
Despite witness statements and repeated complaints, the police have not reopened the enquiry until now.
Paul McMullan a former features editor at the News of the World said: “As I recall it was like 200 quid (pounds) to spin a number plate so you’d know who had visited a celebrity, whereas a good story that was published over a couple of pages would be worth between five to ten thousand (pounds).”
The comments appear to be confirmed by Steve Roberts the former head of the Metropolitan Police’s anti-corruption unit.
“There had been one or two slightly higher profile cases, where we’d got members of the public, quite often celebrities, involved in crime or who had been victims of crime and their names had found themselves in the papers very quickly, the following morning and it could only have come from one of ours,” he said.
It remains to be seen how far the scandal will reach. Many questions are being asked about the future of Britain’s entire tabloid news industry.