By Alex Stevenson Follow @alex__stevenson
Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire is not thought to have deleted voicemails on Milly Dowler's phone after all, the Leveson inquiry has heard.
Neil Garnham QC, representing the Metropolitan police at the probe into the media's culture, ethics and practices, told Lord Justice Leveson that messages were probably deleted automatically by the mobile phone network instead.
Mr Mulcaire has consistently denied deleting the voice messages, whose absence led Milly's parents to believe their missing daughter was alive and well.
"It is unlikely that anything Mr Mulcaire did is responsible for anything Mrs Dowler heard when she called Milly's phone during that visit," Mr Garham said, referring to a visit to the Birdseye office block where CCTV evidence was being reviewed.
The issue came to light after a newspaper report suggested police detectives might have been responsible for the deleted voicemails.
Their attempt to establish Milly's whereabouts by accessing her mobile account could have led to the messages being erased after a set period - perhaps 72 hours - as was standard practice at the time, the Mail reported.
"It is conceivable that other News International journalists deleted the voicemail but the MPS [Met police] have no evidence to support that proposition and current enquiries suggest that is unlikely," Mr Garnham added.
The relevant phone network provider has confirmed that existing messagesare "dropped off after 72 hours". This was approximately the length of time between Milly's disappearance and the visit to the Birdseye building.