Murder of Sally Anne Bowman
|Sally Anne Bowman|
11 September 1987|
Carshalton, Greater London, England
|Died||25 September 2005
Croydon, Greater London, England
|Cause of death||Homicide|
Sally Anne Bowman (11 September 1987 – 25 September 2005) was an English singer and hairdresser and model who was murdered in the early hours of 25 September 2005 in Croydon, Greater London. Bowman, aged 18 at the time of her death, had been robbed, raped and repeatedly stabbed. Mark Dixie, who had a history of robbery and sexual offences, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum of 34 years.
Life and career
Bowman, born on 11 September 1987 in Carshalton, Greater London to Linda and Paul Bowman (who later divorced), attended the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology in Croydon. She had dreams of one day appearing on the cover of Vogue and had been compared to supermodel Kate Moss. Bowman worked part-time as a hairdresser and model. In January 2005, Bowman joined Pulse Model Management, a local modelling agency. She became the face of Swatch watches, and took part in the Swatch Alternative Fashion Week in April 2005.
She described her experience there. "I was so nervous all week particularly when all the models were lined up and the designers chose who they wanted to model their clothes—luckily I was picked by loads of designers which gave me more confidence," Bowman said, describing her experience.
At 10 p.m. on 24 September 2005, Bowman, her older sister Nicole, and a group of friends went to Lloyd's Bar in Croydon, where they stayed until 1 a.m. After leaving the bar, Sally Anne waited outside for 15 minutes before being taken to a friend's house by taxi.
She contacted her ex-boyfriend, Lewis Sproston, and he agreed to pick her up and take her home after she told him Nicole had been arrested for fighting. She took a taxi back into Croydon town centre, where Sproston picked her up at around 2:20 a.m. and drove her to her home in Blenheim Crescent. While in the car, Bowman and Sproston had a quarrel, each accusing the other of infidelity, which had contributed to their recent split.
Shortly after 4 a.m., Bowman left the car and Sproston drove off. Minutes later, Bowman was stabbed in the neck and stomach, and then raped as she lay dead or dying. Her handbag, cardigan, underwear and mobile phone were stolen. Police initially treated Sproston as a suspect, and he was subsequently arrested. After being held for four days, DNA evidence eliminated him as a suspect and he was released without charge.
Investigation and trial
On 28 June 2006, 35-year-old Croydon man Mark Dixie was arrested on suspicion of murdering Bowman. He was charged with Bowman's murder and remanded in custody to await trial. This development came after police discovered a DNA link with the murder, having taken a DNA swab from Dixie when they arrested him two weeks earlier for allegedly being involved in a brawl at the pub where he was working as a chef.
After more than 18 months on remand, Dixie went on trial at the Old Bailey on 4 February 2008, charged with the murder of Sally Anne Bowman. He admitted to having sex with her after finding her on the ground outside her home, but denied murdering her; and claimed that he did not realise she was dead or dying when he first found her.
Dixie was found guilty of Bowman's murder by a unanimous verdict on 22 February 2008 after three hours of jury deliberation. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum of 34 years, meaning that he is unlikely to be considered for parole until at least 2040 and the age of 70. This is among the longest minimum terms ever imposed upon a single murderer. It was then revealed that Dixie was already a convicted serial sex offender.
Calls for a national DNA register
Following Dixie's murder conviction, Detective Superintendent Stuart Cundy, who had led the Bowman investigation, said: "It is my opinion that a national DNA register—with all its appropriate safeguards—could have identified Bowman's murderer within 24 hours. Instead it took nearly nine months before Mark Dixie was identified, and almost two-and-a-half years for justice to be done."
The calls for such a register were, however, turned down by ministers and other politicians who claimed that it would raise practical as well as civil liberties issues. Linda Bowman, Sally Anne's mother, has continued to call for a national DNA register to be introduced.
A documentary about the murder was broadcast on BBC One on 8 April 2008. Another TV documentary, as part of ITV's Real Crime series documented Bowman's killing, with interviews, the history of the case and reconstructions included, aired on 29 June 2009.
|Born||Mark Philip Dixie
24 September 1970
Streatham, London, UK
|Other names||Mark Down
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment with a minimum term of 34 years|
Mark Philip Dixie (born 24 September 1970) was born in Streatham. When he was 18 months old, his parents separated. When he was 8, his mother remarried; she had two sons by her new husband. Dixie took his stepfather's surname, McDonald.
Dixie's criminal record begins in 1986. Between then and 1990, he was found guilty of robbery, burglary, assaulting a police officer, indecent assault, indecent exposure and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He lived in Australia from January 1993 until he was deported back to the UK in April 1999 after being fined for indecent exposure. He lived in London until moving to Spain in 2002. He moved back to England in 2003.
Dixie later started work as a chef at Ye Olde Six Bells pub in Horley, Surrey. He was arrested on 10 June 2006 in nearby Crawley, West Sussex, after being involved in a fight while watching an England vs Trinidad and Tobago World Cup football match. His DNA was taken and matched with that of Bowman's killer.
Dixie denied the murder. As part of his defence he claimed he had spent the night drinking and taking drugs, and had gone out to buy more cocaine. He claimed to have come across the body of Bowman, murdered, he said, by a third party, and had sex with her after she was killed.
Dixie's DNA matches that left at a sexual assault in 2001, where it is believed he masturbated in front of a woman in a telephone booth.
In October 2006, Dixie's DNA was sent to Western Australia to be tested against that of the DNA evidence in the Claremont serial killer case between 1996 and 1997, as it is believed he was in the area at the time of the killings, and may have committed them. At his trial for the murder of Bowman, an unnamed Thai woman gave evidence that Dixie had stabbed and raped her in Australia in June 1998 in Subiaco, Western Australia whilst Dixie was burgling her house; Dixie has yet to be formally charged with this attack, though a DNA sample from the woman's underwear has been matched to him.
On 11 September 2008, a memorial was held to mark what would have been Bowman's 21st birthday. Balloons were released in Central Croydon outside Primark in North End. In August 2017 Bowman's family revealed that her ashes had been exhumed four years previously as her grave had been repeatedly targeted by vandals.
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