Milly Dowler's dad was original suspect

Murdered Milly Dowler's father told a stunned Old Bailey today that he had been the original suspect in her disappearance after police found bondage material at the family home.

Bob Dowler, 59, broke down in tears in the witness box after sad notes written by Milly, in which she said she was unhappy, were read to him.

He had told police, who informed him he was a suspect whether he liked it or not, that the teenager had discovered a bondage magazine in his bedroom.

But he denied having anything to do with the 13-year-old's disappearance.

Double killer Levi Bellfield was later arrested but denies killing Milly.

Bellfield, 42, denies abducting and murdering Milly and attempting to kidnap Rachel Cowles, aged 11, in March 2002.

Milly disappeared "in the blink of an eye" after leaving Walton-on-Thames station, Surrey, and beginning her walk home along Station Avenue.

The prosecution says Bellfield was living yards away and murdered Milly in his flat before dumping the body.

Her remains were found six months later in woods 25 miles away.

Bellfield, a former wheelclamper and bouncer, was convicted in 2008 of murdering Marsha McDonnell, 19, Amelie Delagrange, 22, and attempting to murder Kate Sheedy, 18.

The emotional evidence came from Mr Dowler, an IT consultant, after Jeffrey Samuels QC, defending, began his cross-examination.

Mr Samuels asked: "After the aftermath of her disappearance and in the early part of the police inquiry, is is right that you became for a time the focus of police inquiries?"

Mr Dowler replied: "That is correct."

He had considered this to be a waste of time. He said: "I was very concerned because I knew if they focused on me, they need to be focused on someone else."

Mr Samuels: "They were suggesting you had something to do with your daughter's disappearance?"

Mr Dowler: I do believe that was the case."

Mr Samuels suggested that Milly had not been the "happy-go-lucky-character" she had been made out to be but had her own "demons".

Mr Dowler replied: "She had her natural childhood fears."

It was then that Mr Samuels read out a poem and letter found in Milly's bedroom and Mr Dowler sobbed.

Mr Dowler told a packed courtroom: "The notes on that piece of paper are very sad."

The words read to the court by defence counsel included: "All they do is slag me off and force everyone else against me."

It went on to say: "I am not pretty or fit, what do they have that I haven't? Let's face it, I am just totally shit."

Her sister had been "pretty and intelligent". Milly said she hated school.

A second document read: "Dear daddy and my beautiful mummy, by the time you find this letter I will be gone. It would be best for you to try to forget me. I will always love you.

"I am sorry but lots of love, your little disappointment."

Mr Dowler wiped away tears and sobbed: "It is very distressing."

In a drawer in Milly's room, a note said: "Jess is a true friend. She is the best. Jess helped me the most with this whole dad thing."

Mr Dowler said he did not know what she was referring to but said he could only think it might be that his wife told him Milly had been in their bedroom "to look for something in the bottom drawer of a chest of drawers".

"In looking for the item she pulled the whole drawer out and underneath the drawer discovered a pornographic magazine."

Pressed on what sort of pornographic magazine was found, Mr Dowler said: "It was probably extreme pornographic material, a fetish nature, latex and bondage."

He agreed that other porn had been found in the house. Some of it was on videos in the lounge.

In the loft, police had found a hidden bag with items of clothing and equipment, including a rubber hood and ball, associated with bondage sex.

There were also more porn magazines which contained contact details which had been marked in such a way which indicated he had made inquiries or had used such services.

Asked what impact the items would have had on Milly, Mr Dowler said: "If she had come across these materials, she would have become most distressed."

He agreed he told police that it would have been "a complete betrayal as a father" but had also told them he had "no involvement whatsoever" in Milly's disappearance.

The last time he had seen Milly was when he kissed her goodbye on the morning she went missing.

Mr Dowler agreed he had not helped to allay police suspicions after telling them weeks after his first interview that he had left something out of his first statement.

He had not said that he stopped at a service station on the way home and become aroused by a magazine.

At home he had masturbated in a bedroom before receiving a call from Milly saying she was fine but would be late because she was having chips with friends at the station.

Milly's teacher mother Sally, 51, told the court she thought her daughter had found the magazine about two months before.

Mrs Dowler added: "I said to her, 'It doesn't mean that daddy doesn't love me'. I am sorry she had found it."

The trial was adjourned to tomorrow.

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