'Gone in the blink of an eye' – Milly Dowler murder trial opens

Schoolgirl milly Dowler vanished "in the blink of an eye", a prosecutor told the Old Bailey yesterday.

The 13-year-old had taken a different route home that day in March 2002, having stopped off at a café with friends.

Within minutes of leaving them, she disappeared.

She was snatched in broad daylight in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, and it was not until six months later that her unclothed and badly decomposed body was found in undergrowth.

The jury heard that a 42-year-old former nightclub doorman, Levi Bellfield, who denies kidnap and murder, killed two women and attempt to kill another within two years of the day the schoolgirl disappeared.

Mr Bellfield, formerly of West Drayton, west London, was jailed for life in 2008 after killing Amelie Delagrange, 22, and Marsha McDonnell, 19, in London.

The Old Bailey also heard how he tried to murder Kate Sheedy, 18, by running her over with his car. It was after these convictions that Surrey Police started looking into links with Milly's disappearance.

The day before Milly went missing as she walked home from school, Mr Bellfield allegedly tried to kidnap 11-year-old Rachel Cowles just a few miles away, a crime he also denies. Brian Altman, QC, for the prosecution, told the jury that Rachel was approached by a man in a small red car who "tried tricking her by telling her that he had just moved in next door and asked her if she wanted a lift".

He added: "Sensibly she did not accept his offer. At this time, a police car was driven along the road, which possibly spooked the man and he drove off."

Rachel, now 21, recalled that the man appeared to be bald with a "chubby" head which she said was "sort of round and large".

Milly disappeared the next day after leaving school and taking a train with her friends. "Within moments of leaving the station, she vanished," Mr Altman said.

He described her as a "slim, pretty and intelligent" girl who was "developing into a fine young woman". He added that Mr Bellfield's partner and their two children had been away on the day Milly disappeared, but that the next day he had decided to move them with "indecent haste".

Mr Atlman said: "For six long months, the Dowler family suffered the excruciating pain of not knowing what had become of their daughter."

The trial continues.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album