Sally and Bob Dowler, pictured appearing before the Leveson inquiry, have asked to now be left 'to grieve in peace'
The Guardian has updated its July report on the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone, after police apparently found that News of the World journalists were "not responsible for the deletion of voicemails" which led to her parents believing their daughter was accessing her own messages.
While the paper stands by its report which first alleged that the murdered schoolgirl's voicemail was hacked by the now-closed paper, it now says police have found the timing of events means the deletion of messages which gave the Dowler family "false hopes" were not due to the newspaper.
The Guardian also reports that it has now known that Milly's voicemail messages would have deleted automatically, 72 hours after being listened to.
In an amendment to the Guardian's original report the newspaper has added a footnote to say it was updated on 9 and 11 December.
"Since this story was published new evidence has led police to conclude that the News of the World was not responsible for the deletion of voicemails from Milly Dowler's mobile phone that caused her parents to have false hopes that she was alive."
The original article had in fact reported that "the messages were deleted by journalists in the first few days after Milly's disappearance in order to free up space for more messages" and that "as a result friends and relatives of Milly concluded wrongly that she might still be alive".
Giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry last month Sally Dowler told the court of the moment she believed her daughter had been listening to her voicemail messages.
"At first we were able to leave messages then the voicemail became full," she said. "I was used to hearing that and then we had gone up to look at CCTV ... and I rang her phone and it clicked through onto her voicemail so I heard her voice. It was just like, I jumped: 'She picked up her voicemails Bob, she is alive'."
In a statement published on the Guardian's website over the weekend from lawyer Mark Lewis on behalf of Milly's parents, the family said that the deletions were also "not automatically triggered by Milly".
"The mobile telephone company's records show that Milly's last call on her own phone was made on Wednesday, 20 March 2002. Automatic deletion triggered by Milly would have happened (at the latest) by Saturday, 23 March 2002.
"The deletions that gave false hope to the Dowler family happened after that date and therefore were caused by someone else accessing her voicemail."
The Dowlers added that the allegation against the News of the World of listening to Milly's voicemail "remains unchallenged" and asked that they now be left alone to "grieve in peace".
"They have suffered enough in 2011 from the traumatic trial of Levi Bellfield and the horrendous actions of individuals hacking into Milly's voicemail. Enough is enough."
News International agreed to pay the Dowler family £2 million in compensation after it was reported that Milly's phone had been hacked, with News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch giving an extra £1 million to six charities.
- Journalism.co.uk's coverage of the phone-hacking scandal is at this link.