Milly Dowler parents hope for justice after Levi Bellfield murder charge

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The Independent Online

The parents of Milly Dowler were tonight hoping their long wait for justice could soon be over after prosecutors said a former nightclub doorman will go on trial accused of murdering her.

Levi Bellfield, 41, will be charged with kidnapping the 13-year-old eight years ago as she walked home from school before killing her.

The former doorman and wheelclamper, originally from West Drayton, Middlesex, will appear in custody before Staines Magistrates' Court on April 13.

He will also be charged with attempting to kidnap 12-year-old Rachel Cowles the day before Milly disappeared.

The decision follows a multi-million pound police inquiry into one of Britain's best-known unsolved murders.

Amanda Dowler, known to her family as Milly, disappeared while walking home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on March 21 2002.

Six months later her skeletal remains were found 30 miles away by mushroom pickers in Yateley Heath, Hampshire.

Her parents, Bob and Sally Dowler, thanked detectives for their "painstaking work" over the past eight years.

In a statement, they said: "It's very hard to say how we feel after eight long and difficult years.

"We are extremely grateful to Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall and her investigating team for their painstaking work and support to us over the years.

"We are pleased that Levi Bellfield has been charged with abduction and murder and hope this will go some way towards providing justice for our darling Milly."

Bellfield was first interviewed over Milly's death five years ago after he was held by the Metropolitan Police.

Officials at the CPS complex casework unit began considering a huge dossier of evidence last September.

The five files of material, drawn together by Surrey Police's Operation Ruby team, include new evidence against Bellfield obtained in December 2008.

Officers believe they also have compelling circumstantial evidence which links him to the crime.

Bellfield was living with his girlfriend Emma Mills a short distance from where Milly was last seen.

A heavily-loaded red Daewoo Nexia, owned by Miss Mills, was caught on CCTV driving away from area at about the time Milly disappeared.

The distinctive car has never been recovered by police who have searched a large number of lakes and questioned a scrap dealer.

A similar car was involved in the incident the precious day in which a 12-year-old girl was offered a lift home in Shepperton.

This event is understood to be what lies behind the first charge, an allegation that Bellfield attempted to kidnap Miss Cowles.

Prosecutor Nigel Pilkington said a summons had been obtained from Staines Magistrates' Court and would soon be served on Bellfield.

He said: "During my review of the file, I asked the police to conduct further investigations in relation to specific matters, which I considered would have an important bearing on my decision in this complex case.

"Those investigations were completed in February of this year.

"After carefully reviewing all the evidence in this case, I have now reached the decision that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to charge Levi Bellfield with three offences."

Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall, who led the Surrey Police inquiry, welcomed the decision.

She said: "The investigation into the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler has been long and complex, spanning the last eight years.

"We welcome the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service today. Milly's family have been kept fully informed of all the developments.

"Our thoughts remain with Milly's family. We ask the media to respect their privacy as this continues to be an extremely difficult and traumatic time for them."

At her family home in Shepperton, Miss Cowles, a student at Southampton University, said she did not wish to comment.

Her father, John, said they had not been told of the decision by the CPS to charge Bellfield.

Timeline of events

Here is a timeline of events surrounding the investigation into the murder of 13-year-old Milly Dowler:


March 21: Milly vanishes while walking home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. When last seen she was wearing her school uniform - a dark blue blazer, grey skirt and white shirt - and carrying a beige rucksack.

March 24: Robert and Sally Dowler appeal for help in finding their daughter.

April 3: At a joint press conference, Milly's parents make a renewed appeal. Mrs Dowler tells reporters: "We are devastated and desperately worried."

April 7: Police release CCTV footage of Milly on the afternoon she went missing. She is captured on camera at Heathside School in Weybridge, and on the platform at Weybridge railway station, shortly before she caught the train home.

April 10: Milly's sister Gemma, then 16, appeals for witnesses to come forward in an interview with BBC's Newsround.

May 7: New photographs of Milly are released.

September 20: Milly's skeletal remains are found 30 miles away from her home by mushroom pickers in Yateley Heath, Hampshire.

October 8: Milly's family launch Milly's Fund - a charity aimed at promoting personal safety for young people.


March 21: Surrey Police and the Crimestoppers charity offer a £50,000 reward for information leading them to Milly's killer.


November: Levi Bellfield, a suspect in Milly's murder, is arrested by the Metropolitan Police over other matters.


April 25: Police appeal for information about a red Daewoo Nexia car filmed on CCTV close to where Milly was last seen. They say the inquiries result from a "recent development" but refuse to give further details.


August 4: West London scrap dealer Nirmal Gharu is arrested and questioned over the disposal of the red Daewoo Nexia car.

August 19: Police confirm that a dossier of evidence will be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) within seven days. News emerges of fresh evidence in the case.

August 26: The police files are handed to prosecutors at the CPS's complex case unit.

October 6: Underwater divers search a fishing lake at Bedfont Lakes Country Park, in the shadow of Heathrow Airport, for the missing Daewoo Nexia, following new information.


March 30: The Crown Prosecution Service announces whether Levi Bellfield will be charged over Milly's murder.