Emotional scenes as Levi Bellfield is convicted of Milly's murder

One of the most scrutinised murder mysteries 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 in hysterics following the verdict, wailing and shouting, "guilty".

The visceral, public outpouring laid bare their relief at seeing the conclusion of an agonising nine-year wait for justice over the girl's death after she 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 the deliberation room to decide on a second count of attempted kidnap of 11-year-old Rachel Cowles a day earlier.

After hearing the decision, Bellfield, who is already serving life for battering to death Marsha McDonnell in 2003 and Amelie Delagrange in 2004, 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 by at Yateley Heath Wood, Hants, 25 miles away from where she was last seen alive.

The school uniform she was wearing was never found, nor her keys, purse or her Nokia mobile phone.

It had been a chance decision to get off the train a stop earlier than usual to buy chips that led her into Bellfield's clutches, who had been lying in wait for a victim in his red Daewoo Nexia.

The hatchback was later captured on CCTV leaving the area 22 minutes later, sitting low on its suspension. Bellfield claimed he was carrying tools in the car 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.

The former body-builder was already serving a life sentence for the murders of Miss McDonnell and Miss Delagrange, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy, 18, who he tried to run over when she repelled his advances.

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".

Her parents wept in court as they heard details of their daughter's insecurities, penned in a farewell letter and poem found in her bedroom after her disappearance. Both were read to the court in which she talked of her self-loathing, signing off with, "Lots of love, as always, your little disappointment, Amanda". They also suggested Milly thought her sister Gemma was favoured by her parents.

Sally Dowler collapsed and had to be helped from the witnesses box after she gave evidence earlier in the trial, telling the jury she did not recognise the picture the poems and the letter painted of Milly.

But this formed the basis of Bellfield's defence: that she was unhappy and had run away.

But to her friends and family, Milly was "a normal girl", described as someone who "always made you smile", known for her talent for making funny voices.

The jury will return to the deliberation room this morning to consider a verdict on Bellfield's alleged attempted abduction of Rachel Cowles.

Life and alleged crimes

17 May 1968 Levi Bellfield born in Isleworth, south-west London.

20 March 2002 A man approaches 12-year-old Rachel Cowles in Shepperton, Surrey, driving a red Daewoo. It is less than three miles from where Milly Dowler would disappear a day later.

21 March 2002 Milly Dowler last seen by a family friend on Station Avenue in Walton, Surrey. CCTV pictures reveal a figure, possibly Milly, standing near a car.

18 September 2002 Milly's body found by mushroom pickers in Yateley Heath Forest.

4 February 2003 Marsha McDonnell, 19, battered to death near her home in Hampton, south-west London. CCTV shows Bellfield's car "stalking" her bus.

19 August 2004 Student Amelie Delagrange, 22, murdered as she walks home in Twickenham. CCTV shows Bellfield's van near the scene.

22 November 2004 Metropolitan Police arrest Bellfield.

February-March 2005 Bellfield confesses to a prison cellmate that he killed Amelie Delagrange.

October 2007 Bellfield is tried over the murders of Ms McDonnell and Ms Delagrange. Convicted four months later.

4 August 2009 Bellfield arrested and questioned by Sussex Police over Milly's disappearance.

6 October 2009 Divers search lake near Heathrow for the Daewoo but do not find it.

30 March 2010 Bellfield charged with Milly's murder.

23 June 2010 Jury finds him guilty.

Profile: Levi Bellfield

A former wheel clamper, bouncer and body builder, Levi Bellfield used a combination of fear and charm to control those closest to him.

Described in court as a "fat lump" with "no neck and a squeaky voice", he convinced many of his acquaintances he was a "ladies' man". He had 11 children by five different mothers.

Beneath this facade lay a deep disregard for the opposite sex, who he saw as objects to satisfy his desires. "He has a massive ego to feed, he thinks he's God's gift to everyone," Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton of the Metropolitan Police, who led the murder hunt, said in 2008 after his conviction for murdering Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange.

He was also cunning. During his campaign of violence through Sussex and South West London, he turned off his mobile phone when looking for victims so his whereabouts couldn't be detected.

A day after Milly's death, he burned his bedsheets and threw out the mattress in the flat, on Collingwood Place, where he is believed to have taken the schoolgirl. He told then girlfriend, Emma Mills, 33, that his dog had fouled the bed.

Four days after Milly's disappearance, Bellfield reported his red Daewoo stolen. It has never been found, nor has the white Ford Courier van he used to stalk and kill Amelie Delagrange in 2004. As a wheel clamper, he had access to dozens of impounded cars.

Born on 17 May 1968 in Isleworth, West London. He started out as a mechanic and was registered as a nightclub bouncer in Hillingdon. He moved on to work in a wheel-clamping business before setting up his own firm, based in Uxbridge.

On his Friends Reunited profile, he bragged: "Was short at school now over six feet ha ha. Got my own door security and wheel clamping company... dont look my age have seen a few people from school they look 45 sad... any single girls out there email me."

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