- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s tabloid phone-hacking scandal dominated the airwaves Wednesday as it swelled to allegedly involve more missing schoolgirls and the families of London terror victims. Lawmakers held an emergency debate, companies hastily pulled their ads, and the prime minister demanded two new inquiries.

News International, the British linchpin of Rupert Murdoch’s global News Corp. media empire, was under intense pressure because of its News of the World tabloid, which has admitted hacking into the phones of celebrities but now stands accused of possibly interfering with police investigations into missing girls who were found murdered.

Mr. Murdoch on Wednesday gave his support to embattled executive Rebekah Brooks, who will continue to lead his company in Britain despite calls by politicians for her resignation amid the burgeoning scandal.

The News of the World reportedly hacked into the cellphone of missing 13-year-old Milly Dowler in 2002, deleting messages and giving her parents and police false hope that the girl was still alive.

Dowler was abducted and murdered, and the search for her transfixed Britain at the time.

Prime Minister David Cameron called for inquiries into the News of the World’s behavior as well as into the failure of the original police inquiry to uncover the latest allegations now emerging.

London's Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, confirmed they were investigating evidence from News International that some officers illegally accepted payments from its tabloid in return for information.

“It is absolutely disgusting what has taken place,” Mr. Cameron said, speaking in the House of Commons shortly before an emergency debate opened Wednesday. He said the scandal had entered a new phase now that it included murder and possibly terror victims, but he added that any inquiry into the News of the World would have to wait until the police investigation was concluded.

The hacking case broadened with revelations that the tabloid’s operatives also are suspected of hacking into the phones of victims of the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks on London’s transit system that killed 52 people.

Graham Foulkes, father of one of the 2005 victims, said police told him he was on a list of names of potential hacking victims.

“I just felt stunned and horrified,” Mr. Foulkes told the Associated Press. “I find it hard to believe someone could be so wicked and so evil, and that someone could work for an organization that even today is trying to defend what they see as normal practices.”

Mr. Foulkes, who plans to mourn his son on Thursday’s anniversary of the attack, said a completely independent investigation is needed because new information that surfaced Wednesday shows the police were compromised by accepting “bribes” from the tabloid.

“The police are now implicated,” he said. “The prime minister must have an independent inquiry, and all concerned should be prosecuted.”

Mr. Foulkes said Ms. Brooks, the one-time News of the World editor who is now chief executive of News International, must resign immediately. Ms. Brooks has said she didn’t know about the hacking and will remain in charge.

Story Continues →