Senior Surrey police officers suffered 'collective amnesia' over hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone… but got let off with written warning despite failing to actCraig Denholm and Maria Woodall accused of knowing for up to a decade but taking no action
IPCC finds Surrey's senior officers 'afflicted by a form of collective amnesia' Lack of evidence means that misconduct charges are droppedBut Surrey Police still give Denholm and Woodall a written warning
/11/03/article-2227215-005799A400000258-131_634x891.jpg” width=”634″ height=”891″ alt=”Tributes: Craig Denholm (left) stands with Bob and Sally Dowler, Milly's parents, who said because her voicemail messages disappeared they believed she was alive – in fact her her phone had been hacked” class=”blkBorder” />
Tributes: Craig Denholm (left) stands with Bob and Sally Dowler, Milly's parents, who said because her voicemail messages disappeared they believed she was alive – in fact her her phone had been hacked
But their own force said today they had still taken action, by giving the pair 'words of advice'.
Animal: Levi Bellfield abducted and murdered the 13-year-old after she walked past his home
Mr Denholm was disciplined by Surrey for failing to 'assess material sent to him' and Ms Woodall for not 'making the connection between the convictions for phone-hacking in 2007 and the events of 2002'.
Deborah Glass, IPCC Deputy Chair, 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 has released the findings today
but the final report could be published in 2014 to avoid prejudicing
ongoing criminal trials.
Tragic: Milly was a schoolgirl from Walton-on-Thames, shown here ironing in video released by her her family, whose murder shocked Britain
Surrey Police has already admitted it knew for nine years before it became public that Milly's voicemail had been hacked while she was still missing, but never told Scotland Yard when they ran their first phone hacking investigation in 2006.
The now defunct News of the World admitted hacking the 13-year-old’s mobile phone but it remains unknown whether two missing messages were deleted deliberately, as previously suggested, or were removed from her message box automatically.
The Leveson Inquiry into press standards has heard that Milly’s mother Sally phoned her daughter repeatedly in March 2002 after she vanished while walking home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.
The teenager’s voicemail message was a generic automated response when her message box was full but when a message had been deleted the greeting reverted to her personal greeting.
The Dowlers told the inquiry they were given ‘false hope’ by hearing the change of greeting – thinking their daughter might still be alive and had wiped a message.
In fact she had been abducted and murdered by triple-killer Levi Bellfield.
Probe: Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm,
left, and Temporary Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall, right, have been given written warnings
Surrey Police said today they had taken action which they felt was appropriate.
Chief Constable Lynne Owens said: 'Surrey Police acknowledged in 2011 that the hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemails should have been investigated and both the former Chief Constable and I have met with and apologised to the Dowler family for the distress this has caused.
'As a result of the Force’s internal investigation, two officers were referred to the IPCC. The IPCC has concluded that neither officer has a case to answer for misconduct.
'As the IPCC Commissioner has acknowledged, at the time Surrey Police became aware of phone hacking, the focus of the investigation team was on finding Milly Dowler and then bringing her killer to justice.
'This was the largest and most high-profile murder investigation in the country at the time and remains the largest enquiry ever undertaken by Surrey Police. It was right that Milly was the primary focus of the investigation but the matter of phone-hacking should have been revisited at a later stage.'