Police officers investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl may have had their phones broken into at the behest of tabloid journalists, a lawyer for the force involved said Monday.
John Beggs, representing southern England's Surrey Police, said it was likely that officers had their voicemails intercepted as they tracked the whereabouts of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old schoolgirl whose 2002 disappearance sparked a media frenzy.
Dowler's case is among the most disturbing to have emerged from Britain's phone hacking scandal, which has led to a chain of arrests and shaken Britain's police, press, and political spheres and has rocked Murdoch's media empire.
The revelation that the News of the World tabloid broke into the missing girl's phone in an effort to score scoops horrified Britons _ particularly as the spying could have derailed police efforts to locate her.
Dowler's remains were eventually discovered in a forested area in late 2002.
Ahead of a judge-led investigation into the phone hacking scandal, Beggs told a pre-inquiry seminar at London's Royal Courts of Justice that it was "likely that a number of Surrey Police officers ... were themselves victims of hacking" at the time of Dowler's disappearance.
Beggs didn't elaborate, telling the seminar that "I don't want to develop that any further."
A spokeswoman for News International, which published the News of the World before it was shut down in July, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.