Amanda's parents were 'prepared for the worst' over body in river

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The Independent Online

A female body found in the Thames on Tuesday was not that of the missing schoolgirl Amanda Dowler, police said yesterday.

Tests showed the body was that of Maisie Thomas, 73, from Shepperton, Surrey, who went missing while walking by the river on 14 March last year. Her body was found near Sunbury Lock in Surrey, two miles from Amanda's home at Walton-on-Thames. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Amanda's parents were informed about the discovery soon after the body was found on Tuesday afternoon. Amanda, also known as Milly, has not been seen since 21 March, when she went missing on her way home from school.

A statement read on behalf of Amanda's parents, Sally and Robert, and her elder sister, Gemma, said: "This has been an upsetting five weeks and in particular a very difficult 24 hours. We prepared ourselves for the worst and waited for more information. In the early hours of this morning we were updated and told that the body may not be Milly and this was confirmed later."

It was the second time that the Dowler family has had endure the ordeal of a body being found. On 24 March police found a body on the railway line at Hersham, but it turned out to be a man who was believed to have committed suicide.

A spokesman for Surrey Police said Amanda's disappearance was being treated as a missing person inquiry. Superintendent Alan Sharp said: "Throughout this investigation we have been painstakingly thorough, whether it be in terms of search activity, interviewing friends and family or house- to-house inquiries. We are also using highly sophisticated technology and methodologies ... We would urge caution regarding information given to the media from people not working on the case, as they are likely to be very misinformed about details. These people will not be aware of the scale and commitment of this inquiry, the dedication of the officers involved in it, and the thoroughness of our work.

"Ill-informed comments and speculation are obviously distressing to the family and is not helpful to the investigation.

"We are still treating Amanda as a missing person and will continue to do so until we have evidence to suggest otherwise. We are not treating this as a murder investigation but in resourcing terms we have more officers working on the Milly case than most forces would deploy on a murder investigation."