Bouncer questioned about murder of French student

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The Independent Online

A nightclub bouncer was being questioned last night about the murder of the French student Amélie Delagrange in what police believe is a major breakthrough in the case.

A nightclub bouncer was being questioned last night about the murder of the French student Amélie Delagrange in what police believe is a major breakthrough in the case.

Levi Bellfield, 36, was detained at a house in West Drayton, west London, at 8.30am yesterday on suspicion of the murder of the 22-year-old student. The suspect is also being questioned over the attempted murder and robbery of another woman who was attacked close to the scene of Mme Delagrange's killing.

Police also revealed yesterday details of a white van that they believe the murderer used on the night in August he bludgeoned the young woman to death on Twickenham Green, south-west London.

The Ford van, with the registration P610 XCN, was filmed on CCTV driving around Twickenham Green at the time of the attack. Detectives have been unable to trace the current owner of the vehicle, which previously belonged to a Heathrow cargo firm.

Police also raided seven properties in west London, removing a number of objects which they declined to identify. Forensic specialists spent yesterday searching the seven properties.

Mme Delagrange was attacked as she walked home after getting off the bus following a night out with friends on 19 August. The murder is being linked to five other assaults in south-west London, including the killing of Marsha McDonnell, who was bludgeoned to death near her home in February last year.

As well as the murder of Mme Delagrange, the suspect is being questioned about an assault in which a foreign student was struck on the head from behind and had her mobile phone snatched.

The victim, who was attacked close to Twickenham Green in November 2002, did not report the incident at the time but contacted the police in the days after the murder of Mme Delagrange. Mr Bellfield, who was described by neighbours as a part-time bouncer who also worked for a wheel-clamping firm, was arrested after an extensive surveillance operation by Scotland Yard officers.

A man living close to the house where Mr Bellfield was arrested said: "He is a nightclub bouncer. He is out all hours of the night and morning.''

The neighbour's wife added: "He used to wear shorts in the winter so people could see tattoos up his legs.''

Another neighbour described Mr Bellfield as a large man who lived with a woman and her child. "Sometimes there would be three or four expensive cars parked out here. You hardly ever saw him in the same car twice and none of them were bangers.''

The house at which he was arrested had several CCTV cameras fitted to the outside of the building.

Commander Andy Baker, head of homicide at the Metropolitan Police, said: "The arrest itself is clearly an important arrest for us. We are in the early stages of the interview procedure.''

Four other men have previously been held in connection with Mme Delagrange's murder. Three are due to answer police bail next month and a fourth was detained under the Mental Health Act for assessment, although police have said he is no longer a likely suspect.