News of the World scandal: Dad of dead Sunderland soldier suspected his phone was being tapped

John Miller with a portrait of son Simon.

John Miller with a portrait of son Simon.

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RELATIVES of Wearside’s fallen soldiers today welcomed a decision to close the News of the World amid “sick” revelations that journalists hacked into grieving families’ phones.

The top-selling Sunday tabloid will close after a final edition this weekend.

A member of staff outside News International Newspapers Ltd, in Wapping, east London, as the announcement that the News of the World will close after this weekend was greeted with shock and amazement by journalists at News International today.

A member of staff outside News International Newspapers Ltd, in Wapping, east London, as the announcement that the News of the World will close after this weekend was greeted with shock and amazement by journalists at News International today.

The news follows a string of phone hacking scandals, including fears that relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been victims.

Yesterday’s announcement has been greeted favourably by Wearsiders who lost loved ones in the conflicts, but local media experts claim current journalists are paying the price for the past mistakes of others.

It has been claimed phone numbers belonging to relatives of dead service personnel were found in the files of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire during the police probe.

John Miller’s son, Corporal Simon Miller, 21, of Usworth, was one of six Redcaps murdered when an Iraqi mob stormed a police station in Iraq in 2003.

He said: “It’s a sickening thought, particularly in the early years when I got close to two families and because of the distance phone calls were the only way to talk.

“In circumstances such as these, the only people who know what you’re going through are the people who are going through the same thing.

“The thought of someone listening to conversations when you’re in your darkest hour and the trauma of those emotions doesn’t bear thinking about.

“With everything that has gone on, and is still going on, it’s like a slap in the face for us.”

Mr Miller said in the months after his son’s death, he and other grieving Redcaps’ families had suspicions that their phones had been tapped.

And he fears the private detective behind the hackings could have been working for other sources.

He added: “Ours was probably one of the highest profile cases with there being so many families involved.

“How do we know this private detective was just working for the media?

“When it comes to us, all the media has to do is knock on our door and ask.

“We could hear this clicking sound all the time and we used to laugh and say stupid things.

“Someone said we should go to the police, but at the time we had a lot more to worry about.”

Janice Murray’s son Private Michael Tench, 18, became one of the youngest Iraq victims when he was killed by a roadside bomb blast in January 2007.

The Carley Hill mum said: “I think that they have done the right thing by closing it down. They knew they were in the wrong and I couldn’t see any way they could continue.

“I feel sorry for the innocent people who will lose their jobs and I hope the people responsible don’t get away with what they’ve done.

“There has to be a thorough investigation into how both the paper and the police have handled this whole terrible situation.”

She described as “sick” the revelations that someone could have been listening in as grieving families were at their lowest.

“How can people do this? I’m totally disgusted by it.

“What happened to the compassion? Did they for one second think of the pain they would cause?

“It’s a total invasion of privacy and is like rubbing salt in the wound for us.

“This is like standing in the middle of Iraq with no weapons at all.”

Senior journalism Chris Rushton (left), from the University of Sunderland, admitted he was not surprised by the decision to axe the paper.

The Head of Journalism and Public Relations said: “Given the revelations and the damage that they’ve done, I don’t think the brand could have survived.

“I know a lot of newspapers that have closed for financial reasons over the years, but I can’t think of any that have closed for ‘shame’.

“A lot of people will be celebrating, but I do feel sorry for the good journalists who work at the News of the World who will lose their jobs.”

Speculation is now mounting that the News International-owned The Sun, currently published six days a week, will also run on Sundays.

“I’m sure that the vacuum won’t last long,” said Mr Rushton.

This Sunday’s issue of the News of the World will be the last edition of the paper.

In the past few days, claims have been made that the paper authorised hacking into the mobile phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the families of 7/7 bombing victims.

Mr Murdoch said proceeds from the last edition would go to good causes.