War widows on hackers' hit-list

News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks was accused in Parliament of being "part of the criminal underworld".

News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks was accused in Parliament of being "part of the criminal underworld".

Published Jul 7, 2011


London -

Widows of Iraq War victims were targeted by the News of the World phone hackers, police believe.

The extraordinary development emerged days after the revelation that the same newspaper was routinely intercepting the voicemails of victims of crime.

Police have allegedly found evidence that disgraced private detective Glenn Mulcaire, who worked for the paper, held phone numbers and addresses of several families linked to the forces.

On Wednesday night, lawyers for those families and Ministry of Defence officials were in urgent talks with Scotland Yard over the latest twist in an inquiry that is rocking the Westminster and media establishment.

One victim was said to be Samantha Roberts, whose husband Sergeant Steven Roberts, 33, was the first British soldier killed in action in Iraq in March 2003.

The families of Grenadier Guard soldiers who died on the battlefield have also expressed concerns they have been snooped on, well-placed sources told the Mail.

A senior defence source said: “We’re aware of these allegations and are frankly appalled. These people have lost loved ones serving the country and it beggars belief that they should have their private lives raked over so callously. It would be the most disgusting and sickening intrusion.”

As the phone hacking furore continued:

* Chancellor George Osborne was told by police on Wednesday night that his private home number appeared in the Mulcaire files;

* James Murdoch, son of media tycoon Rupert, and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were accused in Parliament of being “part of the criminal underworld”;

* The prime minister agreed to demands from Labour leader Ed Miliband for at least one - possibly two - inquiries into the affair;

* Rupert Murdoch’s proposed takeover of broadcaster BSkyB, which was due to be given the green light within days, is set be delayed;

* Scotland Yard launched an inquiry into bombshell claims that News of the World journalists broke the law by paying corrupt police officers “tens of thousands of pounds” for information;

* Commercial pressure mounted as a dozen leading companies pulled advertising from the paper and NewsCorp and BSkyB share prices slumped, wiping £600 million off the Murdoch family fortune;

* The Met prepared to arrest a “very high profile” media figure.

The scandal dominated Westminster on Wednesday. During a three-hour debate, Labour MP Tom Watson made a series of astonishing allegations that Brooks had ignored police warnings that her reporters were breaking the law.

Watson, using Parliamentary privilege to make his claims, also said James Murdoch was guilty of perverting the course of justice by paying off hacking victims and trying to destroy News of the World email archives in India.

Hours later, in a highly unusual public statement, Rupert Murdoch responded.

He backed Brooks but said: “Recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police with respect to the News of the World are deplorable and unacceptable.

“I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively co-operate with the police in all investigations and that is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks’s leadership.”

Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are understood to be wrangling over whether an investigation into the activities and regulation of the media should be led by a judge and require witnesses to take evidence on oath.

Despite the growing political furore, what has really angered MPs is the suggestion that the newspaper was routinely targeting those least able to defend themselves.

Ironically, the Help for Heroes charity, set up in 2007 to help wounded soldiers, was backed by The Sun newspaper while Rebekah Brooks was editor.

Sergeant Roberts, from Shipley, West Yorkshire, was shot dead in a “friendly fire” incident in March 2003. He had been ordered to give up his enhanced combat body armour three days before his death, due to shortages.

The inquest uncovered a litany of flaws in Britain’s preparations for the 2003 Iraq invasion after his widow campaigned tirelessly for the truth to emerge.

Other high-profile victims seems likely to now emerge. Family and supporters of Jean Charles de Menezes revealed they have asked police to tell them if their phones were targeted after the Brazilian was shot dead by police in July 2005.

Duwayne Brooks, the best friend of Stephen Lawrence, said it would be “amazingÕ if he was not hacked in the aftermath of the 1993 racist murder.

There were even suggestions that relatives of those lost in the 2004 tsunami in South East Asia were targeted.

On Wednesday, Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed in the Commons that phones connected to Danielle Jones, a 15-year-old girl murdered by her uncle in 2001, were hacked.

Police sources confirmed that phone messages of a handful of those caught up in the terrorist atrocities of July 7, 2005, may have been intercepted.

Revelations that journalists rooted through private messages as relatives desperately sought information about missing victims provoked renewed anger.

On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the attacks, Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son David was among the 52 killed, said the claims were “horrendous”.

Others to be targeted included Sean Cassidy, whose 22-year-old son Ciaran died, Tavistock Square survivor Lisa French and hero Paul Dadge.

Scotland Yard has recently advised all 7/7 survivors to change their voicemail security settings. - Daily Mail

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