London: Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday condemned as "truly dreadful" allegations that a British tabloid hacked the voicemail of a missing teenage girl who was later found murdered.
Cameron called for police to investigate the claims about the News of The World, a Sunday tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, "without any worry about where the evidence should lead them".
The allegations put pressure on Rebekah Wade, chief executive at News International, who was editor of the newspaper at the time. However, media reports said she had Murdoch's full support, and would not resign.
In a grim new twist to a long-running phone-hacking scandal at the tabloid, it has emerged that police are investigating claims that 13-year-old Milly Dowler was among a string of high-profile figures who had their phones hacked.
Dowler disappeared on her way home from school in Walton-on-Thames, near London in 2002. Her bones were found six months later in a forest, and last month, a man was jailed for life for her murder.
According to The Guardian, News of The World journalists hired investigators to hack into Dowler's phone and listen to increasingly desperate messages left by her parents and friends as the days went by without any word from her.
When her voicemail box became full, they deleted a few of the messages to make room for new ones -- an action that her loved ones and police mistakenly took as proof that Dowler was still alive and using her phone, the report said.
"If they are true, this is a truly dreadful act and a truly dreadful situation. What I've read in the papers is quite, quite shocking," Cameron told a press conference in Afghanistan, where he was on a two-day visit.
He added: "The police in our country are quite rightly independent but they should feel they should investigate this without any fear, without any favour, without any worry about where the evidence should lead them.”
"They should pursue this in the most vigorous way that they can, in order to get to the truth of what happened."
Monday's report is the latest twist to the long-running phone-hacking scandal at the News of The World, Britain's top-selling Sunday title, which has a reputation for showbusiness scoops and sex scandals.
First Published: Tuesday, July 05, 2011, 16:01