Rupert Murdoch “panicked” when he took the decision to close the News of the World, he told the Leveson Inquiry today.
He said the “whole business” of the now-defunct tabloid had been a “serious blot” on his reputation and told the inquiry into press standards he wished he had closed it years earlier.
The media mogul said: “When the Milly Dowler situation was first given huge publicity – I think all the newspapers took this as a chance to really make a really national scandal – it made people all over the country aware of this, who had not been following.
“You could feel the blast coming in the window almost.
“And I would say it succinctly, I panicked. But I am glad I did.”
He said the decision was taken “very quickly” by him, his son James Murdoch, and former editor and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.
“It was a decision taken very quickly by my son, I think Mrs Brooks was still there, and myself.
“It was done, like that.”
He added: “I am sorry I didn’t close it years before and put a Sunday Sun in,” but said he held back because of its readers.
“Only half of them ever read The Sun,” he added. “In fact only a quarter of them read it regularly. So that probably was brought into consideration at the time.”