Murdoch Paper Hacked Phone It Gave as Gift to Murdered Girl's MotherS

News of the World, the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid shut down last month over allegations of extensive illegal story-gathering practices, is now accused of hacking the voicemail of the mother of a murdered eight-year-old—on a phone that the paper's editor Rebekah Brooks gave her as a gift.

In July 2000, eight-year-old Sarah Payne was abducted and murdered by a man named Roy Whiting. Her mother, Sara, considered News of the World "a friend and ally" during the investigation, and had an especially close relationship with Brooks, then the paper's editor-in-chief. In fact, it was so close that Brooks gave Payne a cell phone "to help her stay in touch with her supporters."

You can guess where this is going. Scotland Yard now apparently has evidence that the phone Payne received was hacked by Glen Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by the tabloid. (Initially, the police had denied that Payne was a target; they now believe that details in Mulcaire's notebooks refer to her.)

Payne, according to friends who spoke with The Guardian, "is in bits about it," for obvious reasons, not the least of which is that she wrote a farewell column in the paper expressing fondness for her "good and trusted friends" at News of the World. Brooks, of course, has denied she had any knowledge that the phone she gave Payne was hacked. Sure.

[Guardian, photo of Brooks and Rupert Murdoch via AP]