Rebekah Brooks Ensnared in New Phone-Hacking Allegations

Phone was a gift to a young murder victim’s mother from the News of the World editor, so the mother could stay in touch with reporters

Last Updated: July 28, 2011 @ 10:02 AM

News Corp.’s phone-hacking scandal reached a fever pitch because the News of the World hacked the phone of an abducted teenage girl who was later murdered. Now the Guardian is reporting that the paper may have hacked the phone of the mother of an eight-year old murder victim.

And this time it appears Rebekah Brooks, confidante of Rupert Murdoch and former News of the World editor, may be involved.

The London Metropolitan Police had earlier told Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was abducted and murdered in 2000, that she had not been the victim of hacking.

Now they say Payne’s personal information was found in the notes of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the center of the hacking maelstrom.

The phone that was targeted is believed have been a gift to Payne from Brooks, who was editor of the News of the World at the time, so the mother could stay in touch with reporters.

Brooks, who has already been arrested and testified before Parliament in connection with alleged phone hacking and bribery, has since called these allegations "abhorrent and upsetting."

Brooks and the News of the World promoted the cause of the Paynes, launching a campaign to get a law called “Sarah’s Law” passed. Because people believed that Payne was victimized by a sex offender — which it turned out she was — the laws allow for controlled access to the Sex Offenders Register so parents can know if a sex-offender lives close by.

Payne was grateful to the paper for its help, even penning a column in its final issue.

She has since released a statement through an itnermediary: "Sara is absolutely devastated by this news, we’re all deeply disappointed and are just working to get her through it."

The News of the World closed because of revelations that it hacked the phone of another abducted girl, 13-year old Milly Dowler, who was later murdered. This news could further erode News Corp.’s position in England, where there has already been a string of resignations and arrests.

Politicians and regulatory officials have questioned whether News Corp. is “fit and proper” to own TV licenses, and the scandal killed News Corp.’s efforts to purchase the remaining 61 percent of BSkyB.

Nonetheless, Thursday was also the day James Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corp. Europe and Asia, returned to chair BSkyB’s board meeting. Over the past week, his job was thought to be imperiled because of potentially misleading statements to a parliamentary committee, but he has now secured unanimous support to remain as chairman..

In the wake of another damning potential hacking, questions may again be raised.