24 Jun 2011

Milly Dowler’s family: trial was ‘truly horrifying’

Serial killer Levi Bellfield has been told he will die in prison after being convicted of murdering schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Milly’s family described the trial as a “truly horrifying ordeal”.

Serial killer Bellfield was given a whole life term for the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler.

The former nightclub bouncer and wheelclamper snatched the 13-year-old off the street as she was walking home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002.

Her remains were found six months later in woodland in Hampshire.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, said Bellfield would never be released from prison, describing him as a “cruel and pitiless killer”.

The judge added: “He subjected Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl, to what must have been a terrifying ordeal, for no reason other than she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and became a target of the unreasoning hatred which seems to have driven him.”

Levi Bellfield

Bellfield, 43, was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Milly at the Old Bailey on Thursday.

I hope whilst he is in prison he is treated with the same brutality he dealt out to his victims. Sally Dowler

Speaking outside court on Friday Milly’s mum, Sally Dowler, said the trial “had been a truly awful experience”.

She added: “The length the system goes to protect his human rights seems so unfair compared to what we as a family have had to endure.

“I hope whilst he is in prison he is treated with the same brutality he dealt out to his victims and his life is living hell.”

Mr Dowler, standing alongside his wife and daughter, told reporters that his family had paid “too high a price for this conviction.”

He said: “The trial has been a truly horrifying ordeal for my family. We have had to relive all the emotions and thoughts of nine years ago when Milly first went missing and was then found murdered.

“During our questioning my wife and I both felt as though we were on trial.”

Jury discharged

The jury failed to reach a verdict on a separate charge of attempted kidnap in relation to an allegation that he also attempted to abduct 11-year-old Rachel Cowles the day before he snatched Milly.

On Friday the judge discharged the jury after Bellfield’s defence team objected to what they called “an avalanche of adverse publicity in the media”.

The killer is thought to be the first person to have been given a second whole-life sentence.

The jury had been told that Bellfield was already serving a whole-life term for the murders of Amelie Delagrange, 22 and Marsha McDonnell, 19, as well as the attempted murder of 18-year-old Kate Sheedy.

The attacks in 2003 and 2004 took place near bus stops on the borders of London and Surrey.

Miss McDonnell’s uncle Shane McDonnell called for an inquiry into why Bellfield was not arrested for Milly’s murder earlier.

He said: “It is always easy in hindsight to make judgments showing how things could have been done differently.

“However, from facts that have emerged throughout this trial, it would appear there are some fundamental procedures that need clarification to show whether they were performed correctly, effectively or at all.

“Of course, no review will ever bring back our loved ones or take away the mental and physical anguish suffered by his victims but it may help to bring about practices that will ensure that similar errors or mistakes can never happen again.”

Bellfield was living just 50 yards away from the spot where Milly was last seen. Police knocked on the door of his flat in Collingwood Place 11 times, but did not try to contact the letting agent to trace him.

He moved his family out of the flat the day after he murdered Milly and was left free to carry on his killing spree.