With exquisite timing, the ever tenacious Nick Davies has brought news of a low point in Murdoch infamy, just when Jeremy Hunt the Culture Secretary (careful, Messrs Naughtie and Marr) was about to clear Rupe and his troops to bid for the part of Sky that they do not already own.
Because we now know that while the search for then missing Millie Dowler was at its height, the Screws’ investigators were listening in to the 13 year-old’s voicemail, then deleting it to free up room in the mailbox for more messages – which they also listened to. The act of deletion made Millie’s friends and relatives think she was still alive, although she had already been murdered by Levi Bellfield.
Staggeringly, Surrey Police did not investigate what looks like an attempt to pervert the course of justice. The deleted messages were potential evidence in the investigation. This is on top of the illegal “blagging” of ex-directory phone numbers done on behalf of Screws hacks.
So far, so inexcusable, but where did the buck stop? That, fortunately, is a very straightforward one to answer: with the then editor of the paper, assisted by the deputy editor. Those two positions were then held by Rebekah Wade (now Brooks), and Andy Coulson. The potential effect on the Sky takeover should not need pointing out.
As I pointed out recently, Brooks is already in the frame for directly requesting Steve Whittamore to trace an address from a phone number, and thus demonstrating that any defence built around the idea that those at the top didn’t know what was going on is pure fantasy. Brooks and Coulson were in it up to their necks.
So do we now get some arrests? The Police, if the Guardian story is accurate, have enough evidence to feel someone’s collar for perverting the course of justice. In a delicious irony, Young Dave is now in the position of seeing Brooks, his personal friend, possibly about to be lined up for one of those early morning visits with which the Tories had no problem when the targets worked for Tony Blair.
And, just to prod the Plods a little, the Dowler family have instructed their solicitor to start proceedings against the Screws. Non-story? It was, and still is, about acts of forthright criminality. Those who called this as some kind of left versus right political scrap could not have been more wrong. It’s only a pity that the realisation, for so many out on the right, has taken so long to come.
Because now, the whole rotten Murdoch edifice can be seen for what it is. No journalist or politician can defend this. We need action, and we need it now.