17 May 2011

Milly’s mother’s tears as she tells court: ‘We were happy’

Another distressing day in court for the family of Milly Dowler as the schoolgirl’s mother insists her daughter was happy at home prior to her disappearance in 2002.

Sally Dowler insisted the Dowlers had been

The mother of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler broke down as she told the Old Bailey her daughter had been happy prior to her disappearance.

Sally Dowler had to be helped from the witness box sobbing and shaking after completing her evidence against Levi Bellfield, the double killer alleged to have snatched the 13-year-old from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in March 2002.

The maths teacher, 51, insisted the Dowlers had been “a happy family” and said she had no reason to believe Milly was suicidal or was thinking of running away from home.

On Monday, the court was read excerpts from a poem and a “goodbye note” police found in Milly’s bedroom in which the schoolgirl said she hated herself and signed off by describing herself as a “little disappointment”.

Mrs Dowler said: “A lot of young girls pour out their deepest thoughts in to their diaries.” She added: “If she had any problems, she would have come and talked to me about them. I think we had a good relationship.”

I remember a bit of it…her thinking that Gemma was my favourite daughter. It’s not true. Sally Dowler

Jeffrey Samuels QC, defending Bellfield, asked her: “Were you aware that Amanda may have felt, rightly or wrongly, that you and her father favoured her older sister and paid her more attention?”

Mrs Dowler, sobbing heavily, replied: “I wasn’t aware of that but I did get shown a note about that and it wasn’t true at all.

“I remember a bit of it…her thinking that Gemma was my favourite daughter. It’s not true.”

It was the second day of emotional turmoil for the Dowlers after Milly’s father Bob, 59, was forced to admit that he had initially been a suspect after he told police how Milly had found bondage pornography in his bedroom.

Asked about the effect on Milly, Mrs Dowler said: “I was shocked to find them there as well. She was upset. I shouted at him and we had an argument and he said he would remove them.”

Mrs Dowler, who was wearing a white blouse and a black and white cardigan, said there had been no change in Milly after she discovered the fetish magazine.

She said the week before Milly’s disappearance had been busy but not stressful. Milly had gone with her uncle to a fun run at the weekend and was looking forward to going to a Pop Idol concert.

She had been anxious about school exams, and there had been an issue about bullying but she had not been depressed, Mrs Dowler said.

Prosecutors claim Milly was snatched as she passed an entrance to Bellfield’s rented flat in nearby Collingwood Place on her way home from Walton station. Her body was found six months later in September 2002 by mushroom pickers in Yateley Heath woods in Hampshire.

I was going mad. I really felt on the brink of insanity at that stage. Sally Dowler

The court heard Mrs Dowler had feared for her sanity following her daughter’s disappearance and begged to be hypnotised to help her remember details of the day she went missing.

Mrs Dowler said: “I was going mad. I really felt on the brink of insanity at that stage.

“I was just so desperate. I was just going over and over and over it again, trying to remember the minutiae of it. I was driving myself mad trying to recall something.”

She told the court she had suffered a nervous breakdown since Milly’s disappearance.

The jury have heard how Bellfield was convicted of the murders of Amelie Delagrange, 22, Marsha McDonnell, 19, and the attempted murder of 18-year-old Kate Sheedy in 2008.

The 43-year-old former bouncer and wheel clamper denies Milly’s kidnap and murder. He further denies attempting to kidnap 11-year-old Rachel Cowles in nearby Shepperton the day before Milly disappeared.