Phone hacking: Fresh allegations

The mother of a second murdered schoolgirl is "devastated" after she was told her phone may have been targeted by Britain's News of the World newspaper, her child welfare group has said.

Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was killed by a paedophile in 2000, had worked closely with the now-defunct tabloid in a campaign for "Sarah's Law", which allows greater public access to the sex offenders register.

Payne - who wrote a column for the final edition of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World earlier this month, calling it "an old friend" - had been given a phone by the newspaper, its former editor Rebekah Brooks confirmed.

Payne had previously been told that she was not a victim of phone hacking.

But she has since been informed that her contact details were found on a list compiled by private detective Glenn Mulcaire, who was used by the tabloid, her child welfare group The Phoenix Chief Advocates (TPCA) said.

"Whilst it was previously confirmed by Operation Weeting that Sara Payne's name was not on private investigator Glenn Mulcaire's list, it has now been confirmed by the Operation Weeting that Sara's details are on his list," TPCA said, referring to a new police probe into hacking opened in January.

"Sara is absolutely devastated by this news. We're all deeply disappointed and are just working to get her through it. Sara will continue to work with the proper authorities regarding this matter," it said in a statement on its website.

Mulcaire and the newspaper's royal editor Clive Goodman were jailed on phone hacking charges in 2007.

Revelations on July 4 this year that the voicemails of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old schoolgirl murdered in 2002, had also allegedly been hacked by Mulcaire triggered widespread disgust and snowballed into the scandal now engulfing politicians, the police and the press.

The News of the World closed after 168 years, publishing its last edition on July 10.

Brooks said in a statement that the notion was "abhorrent" and "particularly upsetting" because Payne was a "dear friend".

"For the benefit of the campaign for 'Sarah's Law', the News of the World have provided Sara with a mobile telephone for the last 11 years. It was not a personal gift," she said.

"The idea that anyone on the newspaper knew that Sara or the campaign team were targeted by Mr Mulcaire is unthinkable. The idea of her being targeted is beyond my comprehension.

"It is imperative for Sara and the other victims of crime that these allegations are investigated and those culpable brought to justice."

The campaign for Sarah's Law - and the uproar caused by the naming and shaming of child sex offenders - is considered as the standout point of Brooks's editorship of News of the World, from 2000 to 2003.

Brooks resigned on July 15 as the chief executive of News International, the British newspaper publishing arm of Rupert Murdoch's empire.

Brooks, 43, was arrested on July 17 in connection with phone hacking and corruption allegations. She denies any wrongdoing.

In her column for News of the World's final edition, Payne said she and the top-selling Sunday newspaper came together at the "most horrendous time".

"But from that moment on the News of the World and more importantly the people there became my very good and trusted friends," she wrote.

"And like all good friends they have stuck with me through the good and the bad and helped me through both."

-AFP

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