The News of the World folded after the latest scandal to hit the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid. The alleged hacking of a missing schoolgirl's voicemail intensified pressure against the paper, which has shut down after 168 years of publication.
The paper is accused of intercepting and deleting messages left in Amanda "Milly" Dowler's voicemail, giving her family false hope she would be found, and interfering with police investigations.
The Guardian newspaper — a key player in holding the News of the World to account — noted that the Dowler family granted the tabloid an exclusive interview soon after the girl's disappearance. Sally Dowler, Milly's mother, spoke to the News of the World of her hope, which the Guardian writes was "falsely kindled by the newspaper's own intervention."
In 2002, she said: "If Milly walked through the door, I don't think we'd be able to speak. We'd just weep tears of joy and give her a great big hug."
This timeline outlines events related to the murder case that became a focal point in the phone hacking fiasco:
- March 21, 2002 Amanda "Milly" Dowler, 13, of Surrey, U.K. disappears on her way home.
- March 2002 In the days following Dowler's disappearance, the News of the World allegedly begins hacking into Milly's voicemail and listening to her messages. When her voicemail fills up, they allegedly delete a few messages to make room for more — thereby interfering with the police investigation and giving her loved ones false hope.
- March 27, 2002 An employment agency leaves a message in Milly's previously full voicemail, telling her a job has opened up.
- April 14, 2002 News of the World publishes a story about the employer's message, claiming that a woman pretending to be Milly applied for a job using the missing girl's phone number. Their story implies their access to her voicemail: "…six days after Milly went missing, that the employment agency appears to have phoned her mobile."
- April 2002 Police become aware that the paper was listening to Dowler's messages, according to the Guardian. Investigators later tell the Guardian that they didn't take action because they were focused on finding Milly and were accustomed to tabloid misbehaviour.
- September 20, 2002 Six months after her disappearence, Milly's remains are discovered 48 kilometres away from her home. Police confirm her identity using dental records, and the case is reclassified from a missing person to murder case.
- January 2007 Clive Goodman, News of the World reporter, and Glenn Mulcaire, hired private investigator, are sentenced to jail time for intercepting hundreds of voicemail messages following a high-profile phone hacking scandal that targeted the Royal Family. The top brass at the tabloid claim Goodman was the only one in the newsroom involved in the misdeeds.
- July 2009 The Guardian begins to publically accuse the News of the World of targeting scores of other people in the public eye, including politicians, athletes, and celebrities. They also report that top-ranking officials knew about the hacking and paid to suppress evidence.
- September 2009 Les Hinton, former executive chairman of Murdoch's U.K. newspapers, claims phone hacking was an isolated incident, adding that an internal review found no evidence that the problem was widespread.
- September 2010 The New York Times throws another major allegation at News of the World, reporting that phone hacking was routine in the tabloid's newsroom, and even low-ranking reporters were aware of the practice. British Parliament re-launches an investigation into the hacking allegations, and puts pressure on former editor Andy Coulson.
- April 2010 Dan Evans, reporter for News of the World, is suspended following new hacking allegations.
- January 21, 2011 Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World, resigns from new position as U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications. He blames "continued coverage of events connected to my old job at the News of the World" for interfering with his communications job.
- April 2011 News of the World's parent company, News International, issues a public apology for instances of voicemail interception. The company owns up to certain violations between 2004 and 2006 and offers compensation to victims. Journalists Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck, and James Weatherup are arrested on charges of intercepting voicemail messages.
- June 23, 2011 Levi Bellfield, former nightclub doorman, is unanimously found guilty of abducting and murdering Milly Dowler. The News of the World reports on the verdict, calling Bellfield "evil" and "a monster" and proclaiming "justice for tragic schoolgirl."
- July 2011 Police notify the Dowler family of allegations against News of the World, claiming that they intercepted Milly's voicemail and deleted messages that may have been key evidence.
- July 4, 2011 Mark Lewis, Dowlers' lawyer, states that the family will take legal action against the News of the World, adding that the paper was "heinous" and "despicable" in its actions.
- July 7, 2011 News Corp. bows to intense public pressure and announces that it will shut down News of the World in the height of the phone hacking scandal.
- July 10, 2011 After 168 years, the last issue of the News of the World will hit news stands.
- July 13, 2011 News Corp announces it has withdrawn its bid for British Sky Broadcasting.
- July 14, 2011 Rupert and James Murdoch at first decline and then agree to testify at a British parliamentary committee investigating the phone hacking scandal.
- July 15, 2011 News International CEO Rebekah Brooks resigns.
- July 16, 2011 Rupert Murdoch buys ads in all U.K. newspapers to offer a direct apology to phone hacking victims.
- July 17, 2011 London police arrest Brooks and question her on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and suspicion of corruption. She says she is "assisting police with their inquiries." Later the same day, London's police chief resigned over his links to a former News of the World editor caught up in the phone hacking scandal. Paul Stephenson denied any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Murdoch took out ads in British papers for a second day in a row. This time, he promised that News Corp. will make amends for the phone hacking scandal shaking his global media business.