Court documents filed by victims of voicemail interception claim that the UK newspaper publisher allegedly put in place an email deletion policy in November 2009, which aimed to "eliminate in a consistent manner" emails "that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation".
Phone hacking is primarily thought to have occurred at the News of the World between 2002 and 2006, when a range of high-profile people were targeted, including murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
The Guardian says that an executive at News Group Newspapers, publisher of the News of the World, apparently demanded progress on the "email deletion policy" in 2010, while News International also destroyed "all computers used by its journalists" in about October 2010, according to the claimants. This included a machine used by a reporter named specifically in the hacking case brought by actress Sienna Miller.
In January 2011, the emails on News International's archive system up to September 31, 2007, were apparently deleted, according to witness statement issued by the company's new chief information officer.
> News International accused of 'mass deletion of emails'
Details of the alleged email deletion activity were revealed in court documents of hacking legal cases released to The Guardian. If true, it would have taken place as the first major accusations of widespread phone hacking started to appear against the News of the World.
The Guardian ran the first exposé of phone hacking in July 2009, claiming that thousands of people may have been targeted before the arrest of the paper's former royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in 2006.
News International has faced accusations that it launched a cover-up of phone hacking, while the former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck accused the newspaper publisher last December of "withholding information" about the extent of wrongdoing.
Last month, the High Court heard that "senior employees and directors" at News Group Newspapers had sought to conceal phone hacking by "destroying evidence of wrongdoing", which "included a very substantial number of emails".
Specific requests for alleged deletion of emails is said to have come after News International received a letter dated September 6, 2010, from Miller's legal team that called for all relevant documents and emails to be preserved by the company.
Three days later, an employee in News International's technology department allegedly wrote: "If the deletion need [sic] to wait until tomorrow, then that is fine.
"There is a senior NI management requirement to delete this data as quickly as possible but it need to be done with commercial boundaries."