LONDON // Britain's hacking scandal re-ignited yesterday after it emerged that the mother of an eight-year-old girl abducted and murdered by a paedophile might have been targeted.
The disclosure that the phone number of Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was killed in 2000, was on the "hacking list" of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was considered particularly vindictive because the News of the World actually supplied and paid for the phone involved.
After Sarah's murder, her mother joined forces with the News of the World in a high-profile campaign that led to the introduction of what became known as Sarah's Law, which gives parents freer access to information about convicted paedophiles living near their homes.
The relationship between the newspaper and Mrs Payne was so close that, when Rupert Murdoch ordered its closure earlier this month because of the hacking scandal, she wrote an impassioned article mourning its passing and praising its work in spearheading her campaign.
After yesterday's Guardian newspaper revealed that the number of the phone, which had been given to Sarah's mother 11 years ago to help with her campaigning, appeared among almost 4,000 on the hacking list, Mrs Payne was said to be "absolutely devastated".
Ivan Lewis, the Labour Party's culture and media spokesman, said: "This shocking news about the hacking of Sara Payne's phone will ignite anger and revulsion across the country.
"The newspaper which championed Sara's campaign for Sarah's Law invading her privacy in such a cruel way raises further serious questions about what was happening at the News of the World on Rebekah Brooks's watch."
Mrs Brooks was editor of the News of the World between 2000-2003, later becoming chief executive of News International, the Murdoch newspaper parent company in the UK. She was forced out of that post this month amid a swirl of allegations over the hacking.
In a statement, Mrs Brooks described the idea of anyone hacking the phone of her "dear friend" Mrs Payne as "abhorrent".
She added: "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 11 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."
Mulcaire, along with the News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, was jailed in 2007 at the start of the scandal when it emerged that the pair had conspired to access the voicemails of members of Buckingham Palace staff.
At the time, a police investigation and an internal inquiry concluded that the hacking had been an isolated incident.
Late last year, a fresh police investigation was launched after claims that Mulcaire had obtained the phone numbers and voicemail pin numbers of thousands of people - mainly celebrities and politicians - on behalf of the newspaper.
But it was only at the start of July that the scandal reverberated around the world after the disclosure that the voicemail of an abducted schoolgirl, who was found murdered six months later, had been hacked while police were desperately trying to trace her.
As a result of the scandal, so far, several senior News International personnel have been forced to resign, Mr Murdoch has been questioned by a parliamentary committee, 10 journalists have been arrested, News Corp has had to drop its plans to buy the whole of the UK's biggest broadcaster and the company has closed its best-selling newspaper.
It also emerged yesterday that Rupert Murdoch's son, James, who heads News Corp's operations in Europe and Asia, is facing a recall by the parliamentary culture and media committee over discrepancies in testimony he gave to them.
During questioning by the committee last week, Mr Murdoch said that he had not been aware of a 2008 email that said that hacking at the News of the World extended far beyond one rogue reporter.
However, Colin Myler, the last editor of the newspaper, and Tom Crone, its legal chief, subsequently said that he had been informed.
Labour MP Tom Watson, who has been among the leading political campaigners to expose the scandal, said yesterday that he would ask the committee to recall Mr Murdoch, and seek testimony from Mr Myler and Mr Crone.