Murder of Milly Dowler
|Amanda Jane Dowler|
|Born||Amanda Jane Dowler
25 June 1988
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England
|Disappeared||21 March 2002 (aged 13)
Station Avenue, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
|Died||c. 21 March 2002
Cause of death
|Yateley Heath Woods, Yateley, Hampshire, England
18 September 2002
|Monuments||Amanda Dowler Memorial Garden, Heathside School, Surrey|
|Other names||Milly Dowler|
|Known for||Murder victim|
|Height||1.53 metres (5 ft 0 in)|
Amanda Jane "Milly" Dowler was a 13-year-old English girl who was abducted on her way home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on 21 March 2002, and subsequently murdered. Her body was discovered on 18 September 2002.
On 23 June 2011, Levi Bellfield was found guilty of Dowler's murder and sentenced to a whole-life prison tariff. Bellfield had been found guilty in 2008 of murdering Marsha McDonnell and Amélie Delagrange, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy, over the two years after he murdered Dowler.
Following her death, Dowler's parents established a charity called Milly's Fund to "promote public safety, and in particular the safety of the children and young people". The case also generated debate over the treatment of victims and witnesses in court, after Dowler's family criticised the way they were cross-examined during Bellfield's trial.
Dowler's murder also played a significant role in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. It was revealed in 2011 that News of the World reporters had accessed her voicemail while she was reported missing. The resulting outcry from the British public contributed to the closure of the newspaper and led to a range of investigations and inquiries into phone hacking and media ethics in British media.
At 3:00 pm on 21 March 2002, Dowler left Heathside School to go home on the train. She got off at Walton-on-Thames railway station, one stop before her usual stop of Hersham, to visit a cafe with friends. After telephoning her father at 3:47 pm to say she would be home in half an hour, she left on foot. She was last seen 18 minutes later, walking along Station Avenue, by a friend of her sister Gemma, who was waiting at a bus stop. A closed-circuit television camera located further along the road showed no images of Milly, indicating she was abducted within minutes of passing the bus stop. It is believed she was killed and her body dumped shortly afterwards. Her parents reported her missing to the police at 7:00 pm that evening.
A nationwide search followed the disappearance, including 100 police officers and helicopters searching the fields, streets and rivers around Hersham. Detectives who had worked on the abduction of Sarah Payne were called in to help. Police and the Dowler family made many appeals for information, including a reconstruction on Crimewatch UK. A plea was made on the ITN news programme by Pop Idol winner Will Young, whose concert Dowler had attended shortly before her disappearance. The Crimewatch UK appeal included a direct appeal to her in the hope that she had run away from home of her own accord, though the day before her father had already expressed fears that his daughter had been abducted. Her mother expressed hope that her daughter had indeed run away, but admitted that she could think of no reason why her daughter would want to do so. It was later revealed that Dowler had, some time previously, written a mock leaving-home letter and notes showing she had been unhappy.
A week after Dowler's disappearance, the police stated that she was probably not taken by force. They reasoned that while she was unlikely to have gone off with someone she did not know of her own free will, no-one had come forward who had witnessed a struggle, despite a number of apparent sightings of her prior to her disappearance.
On 23 April, the discovery of a body in the River Thames prompted media speculation that the remains might be those of Dowler. However, the body was identified the following day as 73-year-old Maisie Thomas, who had gone missing a year earlier, and whose death was not believed to be suspicious. In June 2002, despite further searches, the offer of a £100,000 reward by national tabloid newspaper The Sun and her parents continuing to send text messages to her mobile telephone in the hope of a reply, she remained missing. At this stage police told her parents that she was probably dead.
On 18 September 2002, decomposed human remains were discovered by mushroom pickers in Yateley Heath Woods near Yateley, Hampshire. They were later confirmed through dental records as Dowler's. Advanced decomposition meant that no cause of death could be ascertained. The body had not been buried. The remains were unclothed, and neither her clothes, nor any of the possessions—the purse, rucksack or mobile telephone—she had with her at the time of her disappearance have ever been recovered. The discovery of the body led the police to reclassify the case from a missing person investigation to a murder investigation. The investigation was undertaken by Surrey Police and code-named Operation Ruby.
Police investigation into disappearance and murder
On 22 November 2002, police set up a road block near the spot where the body was found. Motorists in the area were questioned, but no leads were discovered. Initially the Surrey police considered Dowler's father a suspect, though they later apologised for the missed opportunities this may have caused.
On 23 March 2003, DNA of an unidentified male was discovered on an item of Dowler's clothing in her bedroom, suggesting that her killer may have met her before. This link was ruled out within three months, at the same time that a DNA link to a church robbery in Sunderland was also ruled out.
Paul Hughes was convicted of making threats to kill and was jailed for five years after sending letters to Dowler's mother threatening to kill her and claiming to have killed Dowler. The letters were sent whilst Hughes was in prison for indecently assaulting a twelve-year-old girl; the prison service apologised for not screening mail effectively.
Lianne Newman, of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, repeatedly phoned Dowler's parents, school and the police, pretending to be Dowler. Newman was jailed in April 2003 for five months after pleading guilty to five counts of making phone calls to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety.
Gary Farr, of Retford, Nottinghamshire, repeatedly e-mailed Dowler's parents, school friends and police officers working on the case, claiming that Dowler had been smuggled out of the country to work as a prostitute and stripper at nightclubs in Poland, and that her death had been a cover-up. Farr was sectioned indefinitely under the Mental Health Act on 19 October 2006 for being a serious psychological danger to the public after admitting a charge of harassment.
In March 2008, a man was arrested over the 'disposal' of a car linked to the murder investigation but was released later that same day. On 4 August 2009, a 40-year-old man from west London was arrested in relation to the disposal of a red Daewoo Nexia, but later released without charge. Two months later, Bedfont Lake in west London was searched by police in hope of finding the car, but neither the car nor anything else of interest to their inquiry was recovered. The car has yet to be discovered.
On 25 February 2008, Surrey Police confirmed that Levi Bellfield was their prime suspect in the murder inquiry and were "very interested" in questioning him. On 30 March 2010, Bellfield was charged with Dowler's abduction and murder. As a result, the inquest into the death was adjourned. On 6 October 2010 he appeared in court via video link and was formally charged with one count of attempted abduction, one count of abduction, one count of disposal of evidence and one count of murder.
Trial of Bellfield
Bellfield's trial began on 10 May 2011 at the Central Criminal Court before Mr Justice Wilkie and concluded on 23 June 2011 with the jury finding him guilty. He was sentenced to life imprisonment the following day and the trial judge recommended that his life sentence should mean life – just as the judge at his trial for the other crimes had done three years earlier. The trial of Bellfield on another charge of attempted abduction of Rachel Cowles, an 11-year-old girl offered a lift in the Walton area by a man in a red car on 20 March 2002, was abandoned due to newspapers publishing prejudicial material, and the judge ordered that the charge should remain on file.
Following the trial of Bellfield, the investigation, trial and murder of Dowler was the focus of a special Crimewatch programme, entitled Taken: The Milly Dowler Story which was broadcast on BBC One on 30 June 2011. It featured interviews with witnesses, the family and investigators and detailed how Levi Bellfield was caught and featured a reconstruction of what is now believed to have occurred.
Reactions to court proceedings
After Bellfield's sentencing, the Dowler family strongly criticised the way they had been treated during the trial. Dowler's sister Gemma described the day that her parents were cross-examined by Bellfield's defence lawyer as "the worst day of my life". Her mother Sally told reporters outside the Old Bailey:
|“||For us, the trial has been a truly awful experience. We have had to hear Milly's name defamed in court; she has been portrayed as an unhappy, depressed young girl... the Milly we knew was a happy, vivacious, fun-loving girl. Our family life has been scrutinised and laid open for everyone to inspect. We've had to lose our right to privacy and sit through day after harrowing day of the trial in order to get a man convicted of this brutal murder. The lengths the system goes to protect his human rights seems so unfair compared to what we as a family have had to endure.||”|
Bob Dowler commented on Bellfield's refusal to give evidence in court, and for refusing to appear for his sentencing. He added:
|“||My family's had to pay too high a price for this conviction. The trial has been a truly mentally-scarring experience on an unimaginable scale; you had to have been there to truly understand. During our questioning, my wife and I both felt as if we were on trial; we despair of a justice system that is so loaded in favour of the perpetrator of the crime.||”|
Chief Constable Mark Rowley, who oversaw the investigation, joined the Director of Public Prosecutions in calling for changes and for greater protection of victims and witnesses during court cases. Rowley said it was a "most bizarre and distressing coincidence" that the Dowler family had their privacy "destroyed", at a time when footballers and celebrities were being granted super-injunctions to protect details of their personal lives. The Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke rejected calls for a review of criminal cases saying "it is just an unfortunate anomaly in the application of a fair and balanced judicial system". Clarke also referred to the fact that while Bellfield had been convicted of previous murders he had to be presumed innocent and found guilty and not presumed guilty. To avoid prejudicing the trial, evidence of Bellfield's "obsession" with young schoolgirls, and his attempts to procure sex from young girls, were not mentioned during the trial.
Voicemail tampering investigation
The Guardian reported on 4 July 2011 that Scotland Yard had discovered Dowler's voicemail had been accessed by journalists working for the News of the World and the newspaper's private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. The paper also reported that, during their ongoing investigation into that newspaper's phone hacking activities, police detectives discovered journalists had deleted some messages – potential evidence – in Dowler's voicemail box because it was full, thus freeing up space for new messages, which they could listen to. The deletions misled family and friends into thinking that Dowler was still alive. It subsequently emerged that Dowler's phone automatically deleted messages 72 hours after being listened to.
Dowler's parents announced via their solicitor that they would pursue a claim for damages against the News of the World and in September 2011 it was reported that the Dowler family had been offered 2 million pounds in personal damages.
In January 2012, it was revealed that Surrey Police and other police forces knew soon after Dowler's death that News of the World staff had accessed her mobile phone messages, but did not take issue with this. Instead a senior Surrey officer invited staff to a meeting to discuss the case.
Dowler's parents, Sally and Bob Dowler, launched a charity called Milly's Fund on the day of her memorial service, in October 2002, "to promote public safety, and in particular the safety of the children and young people". The charity provides risk assessment advice to teenagers, youth workers, and educators. Its work includes the "Teach UR Mum 2 TXT" campaign, which encourages children and parents to stay in contact via text messaging, including a glossary for parents of commonly-used SMS abbreviations. The campaign was awarded "Best Use of Mobile for Accessibility" at the 2004 GSM Association Awards.
At the 2005 Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, a garden designed in memory of Dowler by Penny Smith won the Tudor Rose award, the show's highest honour. A magenta sweetpea was named after her and made publicly available by Matthewman's Sweetpeas. A five-part soap opera entitled Watch Over Me was commissioned by Milly's Fund encouraging personal safety for teenagers, to be distributed to every school in the UK.
- "Timeline: Milly Dowler". BBC News. 20 September 2002. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- "Milly’s memorial garden opens". Get Surrey. 9 July 2004. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- "Missing schoolgirl". Surrey Police. 5 April 2002. Retrieved 14 May 2011.[dead link]
- "Bellfield given 'whole life' term". BBC News. 26 February 2008. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
- "TV appeal for missing Amanda". BBC News. 28 March 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- MacDougall, Dan (21 September 2002). "Milly’s body is found in woods". The Scotsman (Edinburgh, UK). Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- Edwards, Richard (30 March 2010). "Milly Dowler murder: reconstruction". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- "Massive search for missing girl". BBC. 25 March 2002. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
- "Payne police help in Amanda hunt". BBC News. 30 March 2002. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- "Parents fear Amanda was abducted". BBC News. 27 March 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- "Milly Dowler's dad was original suspect". The Independent (London). 16 May 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
- "Amanda 'not taken by force'". BBC News. 30 March 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- "Amanda family's anguish goes on". BBC News. 24 April 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- "£100,000 reward 'to find Milly'". BBC News (London: BBC). 4 May 2002. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- "Parents texting Milly's mobile". BBC News. 25 June 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- "Milly's parents told: 'Expect the worst'". BBC News. 22 June 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- "Man to face Milly Dowler murder charge". BBC News. 30 March 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- "Milly's body found". BBC News. 21 September 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- "Milly police seek fresh clues". BBC News. 21 September 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- Edwards, Richard (19 August 2009). "Convicted killer Levi Bellfield may face charges over Milly Dowler killing". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 18 May 2011.
- "Milly: 6,000 drivers questioned". The Daily Telegraph (London). 22 November 2002. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
- Joshua Rozenberg (27 June 2011). "The Dowler family's ordeal is no case for silent witnesses". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- "Milly DNA tests draw blank". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- Goodchild, Sophie (23 March 2003). "Party outfit may hold clue to Milly murder". The Independent (London). Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- Evans, Simon (16 May 2005). "Prisoner hate mail blunder". The Scotsman (Edinburgh, UK). Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- "Milly hoax caller jailed". BBC News. 1 April 2003. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- Pyatt, Jamie (20 October 2006). "Twisted Milly hoaxer caged". London: The Sun Newspaper. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- "Man arrested in Milly murder case". BBC News. 30 March 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- Johnson, Wesley; Greenwood, Chris (6 October 2009). "Divers fail to find Milly Dowler car". The Independent (London). Retrieved 8 October 2010.
- "Bellfield linked to Milly Dowler's killing". BBC News. 25 February 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
- Bird, Steve (4 August 2009). "Levi Bellfield to be charged with Milly Dowler murder". The Times (London). Retrieved 9 October 2010.
- "Levi Bellfield trial delays Milly Dowler inquest". London Evening Standard. London. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2010.
- "Levi Bellfield guilty of Milly Dowler murder". BBC News. 23 June 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
- "Levi Bellfield trial jury discharged". BBC News. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
- Roy Greenslade (24 June 2011). "Were the media wrong to report on serial murderer Bellfield?". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- "Taken: The Milly Dowler Story webpage". BBC. 30 June 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- "BBC News – Milly's mother on Bellfield: 'I hope his life is a living hell'". BBC. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- "BBC News – Milly Dowler's father speaks about his family's 'horrifying ordeal'". BBC. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- Clive Coleman (25 June 2011). "BBC News – 'Changes needed' to system after Milly Dowler trial". BBC. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- Gray, Richard (25 June 2011). "Levi Bellfield trial: Milly Dowler police chief attacks 'incongruous' justice system". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- Caroline Davies (24 June 2011). "Levi Bellfield: obsessed with schoolgirls and sexual violence | UK news". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- James Robinson "Milly Dowler phone hacking: Family shocked by NoW revelations", The Guardian, 4 July 2011
- Nick Davies and Amelia Hill "Missing Milly Dowler's voicemail was hacked by News of the World", The Guardian, 4 July 2011
- Fiveash, Kelly. "NotW didn't delete Milly Dowler 'false hope' voicemail". The Register. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- "Milly Dowler's phone was 'hacked by News of The World'", Daily Telegraph, 4 July 2011
- Gordon Rayner and Andrew Hough, Phone hacking: Milly Dowler family set for £3 million News International payout The Daily Telegraph 20 September 2011
- Gordon Rayner (23 January 2012). "News of the World reporter played police Milly Dowler voicemail". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
- "Milly's parents launch new charity". BBC News. 8 October 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- "Milly's Fund". Wasp Sports. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
- "GSM Association Awards Winners Take Centre Stage At Cannes". GSM Association press release. Archived from the original on 4 September 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- "Surrey Police and Milly’s Fund join forces for award-winning garden at Hampton Court Flower Show". Surrey Police. 7 May 2005. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
- Desborough, Julian (20 May 2006). "Remembering Milly". The Times (London). Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- "Teenagers targeted with Milly safety video". The Daily Telegraph (London). 18 June 2003. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- "Special Announcement". Milly's Fund. Archived from the original on 17 December 2005. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
- Milly's Fund, Registered Charity no. 1094006 at the Charity Commission
- Wansell, Geoffrey (2011). The Bus Stop Killer: Milly Dowler, Her Murder and the Full Story of the Sadistic Serial Killer Levi Bellfield. London: Penguin. ISBN 9780241952818.