Former senior officers at Surrey Police failed to act on evidence of the alleged hacking of schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone during their 2002 investigation of her murder, the police watchdog has found.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has found thatformer senior officers at Surrey Police were "afflicted by a form ofcollective amnesia” in relation to the force’s failure to investigate anallegation in 2002 that the voicemail of Milly Dowler had been hackedby the News of the World (NOTW).
The IPCC investigation found that there was knowledge of theallegation in 2002 at all levels in Operation Ruby, Surrey Police’sinvestigation into the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler, but that no actionwas taken to investigate it despite an indication that a crime had potentiallybeen committed.
Deborah Glass, IPCC Deputy Chair, said:
"We will never know what would have happened had SurreyPolice carried out an investigation into the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone in2002.
"Phone hacking was a crime and this should have been actedupon, if not in 2002, then later, once the News of the World’s widespread useof phone hacking became a matter of public knowledge and concern.
"Our investigation has heard from officers and formerofficers from Surrey Police who have expressed surprise and dismay that itwasn’t investigated.
"We have not been able to uncover any evidence, indocumentation or witness statements, of why and by whom that decision was made:former senior officers, in particular, appear to have been afflicted by a formof collective amnesia in relation to the events of 2002. This is perhaps notsurprising, given the events of 2011 and the public outcry that the hacking ofMilly Dowler’s phone produced.
"However, it is scarcely credible that no-one connected tothe Milly Dowler investigation recognised the relevance and importance of theinformation Surrey Police held in 2002 before this was disclosed by Operation Weeting.
"Surrey Police has apologised to the Dowler family for theirfailure and they were right to do so.”
The findings follow an investigation into the conduct of twosenior officers, Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm and temporary DetectiveSuperintendant Maria Woodall, and their alleged knowledge about the hacking in2002 and the actions they took thereafter.
The IPCC also investigated the information that both officersprovided to Surrey Police during an internal inquiry – Operation Baronet – intothe force’s response to the allegations, which concluded for both officers thatthere was insufficient evidence of a case to answer.