A former bouncer who stalked young women by following them on bus journeys was convicted yesterday of the murder of two students in a campaign of violence that police said could have targeted at least 20 other victims, and may include the unsolved abduction and killing of the schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Levi Bellfield, 39, who is the father of 11 children and ran a wheel-clamping company, trawled streets in west London looking for women, preferably with blonde hair, to make sexual advances towards. He would brutally attack them if they rejected his advances before disappearing in one of an array of vehicles, often unregistered, that he used for his business.
A jury at the Old Bailey found the heavily-built man, who also dabbled in drug dealing, guilty of bludgeoning to death Amelie Delagrange, 22, a French student, and Marsha McDonnell, 19, between February 2003 and August 2004. Both women, who had been travelling on a bus or waiting at a bus stop, died after they were struck from behind over the head with a hammer or a similar weapon.
Bellfield, of West Drayton, west London, was also convicted of the 2004 attempted murder of Kate Sheedy, now 21, who was walking home from her last day at school when Bellfield deliberately ran her down in his car after becoming enraged when she crossed the road to avoid him. He then repeatedly reversed over her body and drove off. Miss Sheedy, who has recovered from her injuries, described her attacker as "despicable".
Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton said that behind Bellfield's exterior of a jovial family man lay a calculating and cunning killer. He said: "Levi Bellfield is a predator who preyed on women over a period of time. He targeted his victims at random, attacking those much smaller and weaker than him.
"He refused to face what he had done, lied repeatedly to try to save his skin and treated his victims, their families and the authorities with utter contempt."
Bellfield, who will be sentenced today, is suspected of carrying out at least 20 attacks since the early 1980s, including six attempted date rapes in which disorienting drugs were allegedly used.
Surrey Police confirmed detectives were preparing to speak to Bellfield because he is a key suspect in the murder of Milly Dowler, 13, who disappeared while making her way home in Walton-on-Thames in March 2002. Her remains were found six months later in woods close to a car auction site known to Bellfield.
Bellfield was arrested and questioned about the murder three years ago. Police sources said an attempt to prosecute him for Milly Dowler's murder foundered because of a lack of evidence. Her parents said last night that they hoped Bellfield's conviction would encourage potential witnesses to come forward.
The jury failed to reach verdicts in two other cases – the kidnap and false imprisonment of Anna-Marie Rennie, 17, and the attempted murder of Irma Dragoshi, 33, a hairdresser.