That's not exactly the story I thought that I heard. Lemme try to find something . . .
You're right, in that the Guardian's article comes up first in a Google search - http://www.theguardian.com/uk/...
Here, the Guardian again, backpedaling on that story - http://www.theguardian.com/uk/...
The wikipedia entry seems to confirm what you say - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... specifically, "Dowler's phone automatically deleted messages 72 hours after being listened to." HOWEVER, "in September 2011 it was reported that the Dowler family had been offered £2m in personal damages."
Now, is it true, or is it not true, that Murdoch ALSO paid off celebrities, in the same manner, after having "hacked" into their phone/email/other accounts? It sure looks like the Guardian called it correctly - to me, anyway.
Brief statement that falls in line with my point of view - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0b5d... "Until now the paper’s illegal actions, while costly and damaging to its reputation, were largely seen as being targeted at celebrities and politicians. The News of the World has been battling to draw a line under a scandal that has already seen two people sent to prison."
I'll admit that it's possible that my take on the story is not entirely accurate. But - unless you come up with something convincing, I'll continue to hold that view. Murdoch's minions were making a lot of money by "hacking" into celebritie's accounts, with his tacit approval, if not his clearly stated approval. He was making more money off those tabloid articles than he was spending on settlements. IMHO - Murdoch's boys and girls did exactly the same thing with Milly Dowler's phone, that they had already done with other phones.
But, right or wrong, Murdoch is still a freaking scumbag. So are all of his people associated with the case.