It's fitting that the practices of some of Britain's most gossipy tabloids would become the center of one of the year's biggest scandals. Though the Rupert Murdochowned News of the World had long been accused of hacking into the mobile phones of celebrities to get story scoops, the gasket really blew when it was revealed that it had hired a private investigator who hacked into the voice mail of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler. The investigator then deleted messages to make room for new incoming voice mails that could presumably be mined for more stories about the tragic case. Heartbreakingly, the move gave Milly's family and friends hope that she was still alive and checking her voice mail, and it perhaps interfered with the police investigation. (Milly's murderer went on to kill two more teenagers before he was caught.) Not only were the public outrage and the subsequent parliamentary inquiry enough to shutter the 168-year-old News of the World, but also the ensuing investigation revealed how widespread the despicable practice was, as some 5,800 people are thought to have been hacked. Politicians and police officers had a hand in, or at least some knowledge of, the story-at-all-costs mentality that led to the hacking practice. And with the ongoing investigation and inquiry continually implicating more people and British tabloids beyond the Murdoch empire, it looks as if this scandal will continue into 2012.
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