(Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the alleged hacking of a murdered schoolgirl’s voicemail by the News of the World on Tuesday, part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
The scandal comes at a time when News Corp is pursuing a takeover of UK pay-TV firm BSkyB, which will be its biggest ever acquisition costing at least $15 billion (9 billion pounds) if it goes ahead.
Here is a timeline of events in the long-running scandal:
2000 - Rebekah Wade is appointed editor of Britain’s best-selling Sunday tabloid News of the World. She begins a controversial campaign to name and shame alleged paedophiles, leading to some alleged offenders being terrorised by angry mobs, and also campaigns for public access to the Sex Offenders Register, which eventually comes into law as “Sarah’s Law.”
2002 - Teenager Milly Dowler disappears in Walton on Thames, Surrey in March. Her remains are found in September.
2003 - Wade becomes editor of daily tabloid The Sun, sister paper to the News of the World. She tells a parliamentary committee her newspaper has paid police for information although News International later says this is not company practice.
November 2005 - News of the World publishes story on Prince William’s knee injury. This prompts complaints by royal staff members about voicemail messages being intercepted. The complaints spark a police inquiry.
January 2007 -- The News of the World’s royal affairs editor Clive Goodman is jailed for four months.
-- Goodman listened to voicemail messages left for the press secretary of Prince Charles and also for two officials who worked for his sons, princes William and Harry.
-- His accomplice, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, is given a six-month prison term. Goodman and Mulcaire admitted in November 2006 to plotting to unlawfully intercept communications while Mulcaire also pleaded guilty to five other charges of unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages.
-- After the two were sentenced, News of the World editor Andy Coulson resigns, saying he took “ultimate responsibility.”
June 2009 -- Rebekah Wade becomes CEO of News International. Wade marries Charlie Brooks and becomes Rebekah Brooks.
July 2009 - The left-leaning Guardian newspaper says News of the World reporters, with the knowledge of senior staff, had illegally accessed messages from the mobile phones of many celebrities and politicians while Coulson was editor.
-- Actors Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, Australian model Elle Macpherson and former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott were among those targeted, the Guardian says.
September 2009 - Les Hinton, chief executive of Dow Jones and previously the executive chairman of Murdoch’s newspaper arm in Britain, tells a committee of legislators any problems with phone hacking was limited to one, already well publicised case, reiterating what he told the committee in 2007. He said they had carried out a wide review and found no new evidence.
February 2010 - The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee says in a report it is “inconceivable” that managers at the News of the World did not know about the practice, which the legislators said was more widespread than the Sunday newspaper had previously admitted.
September 2010 - MPs ask parliament’s standards watchdog to begin a new investigation into the phone hacking allegations surrounding the News of the World and its former editor Andy Coulson, by then Prime Minister David Cameron’s media chief.
-- The powerful cross-party Committee on Standards and Privileges will also look at whether the tabloid’s journalists tried to access MPs’ private messages on their mobile phones.
-- Pressure for a new investigation grew after the New York Times had suggested News of the World reporters “routinely” sought to hack phones, often with the help of private investigators.
January 2011 - British police open a new investigation into allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World. Police had said in July 2009 there was no need for a probe into the hacking claims.
-- The News of the World announces it has sacked senior editor Ian Edmondson after an internal inquiry into his conduct.
-- Andy Coulson resigns as Cameron’s communications chief over allegations of phone hacking at the newspaper he used to edit, a move that could embarrass the prime minister and complicate News Corp’s bid to buy BSkyB.
April 2011 - News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and Edmondson are arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept mobile phone messages. They are released on bail.
-- The News of the World admits its role in the phone hacking.
June 2011 - Levi Bellfield is found guilty of murdering schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
July 2011 - A lawyer for Milly Dowler’s family, says he learned from police that the schoolgirl’s voicemail messages had been hacked while police were searching for her. (Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)