Family's relief as Bellfield is found guilty of murdering Milly Dowler

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The Independent Online

One of the most scrutinised murder cases of the past decade came to an end yesterday as Levi Bellfield was found guilty of murdering schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Emotional scenes gripped the Old Bailey as the 13-year-old's mother and sister collapsed following the verdict.

The visceral, public outpouring laid bare their relief at seeing the conclusion of an agonising nine-year wait for justice after Milly vanished on her way home from school on 21 March 2002.

But the jury's work was not over last night as they had to return to decide on a second count of the attempted kidnap of 11-year-old Rachel Cowles a day earlier.

Former bodybuilder Bellfield, 43, was in 2008 sentenced to life in prison for battering to death Marsha McDonnell in 2003 and Amelie Delagrange in 2004 and trying to murder Rachel Sheedy in 2004.

After hearing the decision yesterday, he refused to return to court, yawning as he was led back to the cells.

The judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, gave the jury a majority direction on the remaining count, adding: "He does not want to take any further part in the proceedings."

After a six-month police hunt, Milly's unclothed, decomposed remains were found by mushroom pickers in dense undergrowth in Yateley Heath Wood, Hants, 25 miles from where she was last seen alive. The school uniform she was wearing was never found, nor her keys, purse or mobile phone.

It was a chance decision to get off the train a stop earlier than usual to buy chips that led her into the murderer's clutches.

Bellfield's hatchback was captured on CCTV leaving the area 22 minutes later, sitting low on its suspension.

He claimed he was carrying tools in the boot. He was caught after the footage was uncovered in 2008. It was linked to his former address – where he is believed to have taken Milly – that overlooked Walton-on-Thames station in Surrey.

With little regard for his victim's family, Bellfield refused to give evidence throughout his trial.

Instead he watched as the Dowlers were forced to lay bare their most intimate secrets, prompting prosecutor Brian Altman QC to remind the jury: "It is not the Dowler family who are on trial here".