Apr 24, 2013
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has found that former senior officers at Surrey Police were “afflicted by a form of collective amnesia” in relation to the force’s failure to investigate an allegation in 2002 that the voicemail of Amanda (Milly) Dowler had been hacked by the News of the World (NOTW).
The IPCC investigation found that there was knowledge of the allegation in 2002 at all levels in Operation Ruby, Surrey Police’s investigation into the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler, but that no action was taken to investigate it despite an indication that a crime had potentially been committed.
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 findings follow an investigation into the conduct of two senior officers, Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm and temporary Detective Superintendant Maria Woodall, and their alleged knowledge about the hacking in 2002 and the actions they took thereafter.
The IPCC also investigated the information that both officers provided to Surrey Police during an internal inquiry – Operation Baronet – into the force’s response to the allegations, which concluded for both officers that there was insufficient evidence of a case to answer.
Notes to editors:
For media queries please contact the IPCC press office on 0207 166 3134, 3932, 3028 or 3951
A copy of a Commissioner’s report from IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass is available here.
DCC Craig Denholm was a Detective Chief Superintendant and the senior investigating officer for part of Operation Ruby.
Temp Detective Superintendant Maria Woodall was a Detective Chief Inspector and the senior investigating officer in Operation Ruby from 2006 onwards.
On 21 June 2012 the IPCC received two referrals – from Surrey Police Authority in respect of Mr Denholm, and from Surrey Police in respect of Temporary Detective Superintendant Maria Woodall.
Operation Weeting, the criminal investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service into allegations of phone hacking, is on-going.
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