Scotland Yard officers told Sara Payne on Tuesday that they found evidence that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had hacked into her voicemail, Nick Davies and Amelia Hill of The Guardian report.
In 2006 it was revealed that then-News Of The World reporter Clive Goodman hired Mulcaire to hack into the cell phones of the royal family and their aides, among others. Goodman eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four months in prison, while Mulcaire got six months.
Payne, whose eight-year old daughter Sarah was abducted and killed in July 2000, had previously been told by the police that her name was not in the evidence obtained from Mulcaire. But the police have been reviewing the 11,000-odd pages of evidence obtained from Mulcaire in the wake of accusations that Scotland Yard botched the initial investigation because its reporters and officials were too tight with News International employees.
The police now believe that one set of notes refers to the Paynes -- and that those notes came from a phone reportedly given to Sara Payne as a gift by former NOTW editor and former News International chief Rebekah Brooks, "to help her stay in touch with her supporters," as The Guardian put it.
According to The Guardian, Payne had gotten particularly close to Brooks in the aftermath of her daughter's death, while believing that she was not a target of the hackings. She even wrote an op-ed in the final edition of the tabloid on July 10, calling the staff "my good and trusted friends."
"We have all seen the news this week and the terrible things that have happened, and I have no wish to sweep it under the carpet," Payne wrote. "Indeed, there were rumours - which turned out to be untrue - that I and my fellow Phoenix charity chiefs had our phones hacked. But today is a day to reflect, to look back and remember the passing of an old friend, the News of the World."
This is the second known instance of reporters for News Of The World using Mulcaire to hack into the voicemail of murder victims. On July 4th, the phone hacking scandal exploded after revelations that one of the hacking victims was 13-year old Milly Dowler, who was killed in 2002. News Of The World employees hacked into her voicemail and listened to messages from her friends and family after she went missing -- even deleting some to make room for new ones.
Brooks, who resigned from News International on July 15, has repeatedly denied that she had any prior knowledge of the phone hackings before the revelations about Goodman and Mulcaire, and has said that she did not realize the extend of the hackings until after the Dowler revelations. This defense could be undermined if she did give Sara Payne the hacked cell phone.
On Thursday, Lord Justice Leveson laid out that the public inquiry into the scandal will focus on specific allegations about News Of The World, and on regulation of the press. Leveson was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron to lead the inquiry, and said in a statement that the panel would not just limit its investigation to News Of The World. "It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks and suggest that the problem is or was local to a small group of journalists then operating at the News of the World," he said. "But I would encourage all to take a wider picture of the public good and help me grapple with the length, width and depth of the problem as it exists."
Here's the video, via The Guardian:
Late Update: In a statement, Sky News reports that Brooks said of the new allegations:
These allegations are abhorrent and particularly upsetting as Sara Payne is dear friend.
For the benefit of the campaign for Sarah's Law, the News of the World have provided Sara with a mobile telephone for the last eleven years. It was not a personal gift.
The idea that anyone on the newspaper knew that Sara or the campaign team were targeted by Mr Mulcaire is unthinkable. The idea of her being targeted is beyond my comprehension.
Sarah's law refers to the U.K.'s version of Megan's Law, which was spearheaded by Brooks and Payne in the wake of Sarah's murder.
News International also put out a statement, saying: "News International takes this matter very seriously and is deeply concerned, like everyone."
"As the facts are established," the statement continued, "the company and the independent Management and Standards Committee will take all appropriate actions, including co-operating fully with any potential criminal inquiries or civil proceedings which may arise."