Milly Dowler PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 November 2008 13:13

Millie Dowler

Amanda Jane "Milly" Dowler

Born: 25 June 1988

Died: (found) 21 March 2002

Age: 13

Cause of death:  Murder

Notable because: Massive publicity followed her disappearance.  Seemingly the whole of Britain mourned her.

 

Milly was an English schoolgirl who was murdered on the way home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. Her disappearance in March 2002, followed by the discovery of her remains six months later, resulted in nationwide media attention, a police investigation (Operation Ruby) involving over 100 officers at its peak and numerous tributes. The police received over 6,000 telephone calls, questioned over 2,800 people and made 120 searches.

The current prime suspect in her killing is Levi Bellfield, who was convicted on 25 February 2008 of murdering two women and attempting to kill a third in sexually-motivated attacks.

 

At 3 p.m. on 21 March 2002, Dowler left Heathside School to go home on the train. Dowler got off at Walton-on-Thames railway station to visit a café with friends, one stop early from her usual stop of Hersham. After phoning her father at 3.47 p.m. to tell him she would be home in half an hour, Dowler set off for home on foot, and was last seen a quarter of an hour later walking along Station Approach.It is believed Dowler was killed and buried shortly afterwards. A nationwide search followed the disappearance, including 100 officers and helicopters searching the fields, streets and rivers around Hersham. Detectives who had worked on the abduction of Sarah Payne were called in to help. Police and Dowler's family made multiple appeals for information, including a reconstruction on Crimewatch, and a plea by pop star Will Young on the ITN news programme, as Dowler was a fan and had attended a concert of his the day before her disappearance. The Crimewatch appeal included a direct appeal to Dowler in the hope that she had run away from home of her own accord, though the day before her father had already expressed fears that his daughter had been abducted. Dowler's mother expressed hope that her daughter had indeed run away, but admitted that she could think of no reason why her daughter would want to do so.

A week after Dowler's disappearance, the police stated that she was probably not taken by force, reasoning that, while Dowler was unlikely, of her own free will, to have gone off with someone she did not know, no-one had come forward who had witnessed a struggle, despite a number of apparent sightings of Dowler prior to her disappearance.

On 23 April, the discovery of a body in the Thames prompted media speculation that the body was that of Dowler, however the body was identified the following day as 73-year-old Maisie Thomas, who had gone missing a year earlier, and whose death was not believed to be suspicious. In June of that year, despite further searches, the offer of a £100,000 reward by national tabloid The Sun and Dowler's parents continued to text her mobile in the hope of a reply, Dowler remained missing and by the summer of that year police told Dowler's parents that she was probably dead.

On 18 September 2002, Dowler's skeletal remains were discovered in Yateley Heath Forest near Fleet, Hampshire, and confirmed as Dowler's two days later. The discovery of the body led the police to reclassify the case from a missing person investigation to a murder investigation. None of the clothes Dowler was wearing, nor the purse, rucksack or mobile phone Dowler had with her at the time of her disappearance were found, and as of 2008 they are still missing.

As of 2008, nobody has been charged with Dowler's murder, but three people have appeared in court in relation to the case.

  • Paul Hughes was convicted of making threats to kill and was jailed for five years after sending letters to Dowler's mother threatening to kill her and claiming to have killed Dowler. The letters were sent whilst Hughes was in prison for indecently assaulting a twelve-year-old girl; the prison service apologised for not screening mail effectively.
  • Lianne Newman of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire repeatedly phoned Dowler's parents, school and the police pretending to be the missing schoolgirl. She was jailed in April 2003 for five months after pleading guilty to five counts of making phone calls to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety.
  • Gary Farr of Retford, Nottinghamshire repeatedly e-mailed Dowler's parents, school friends and police officers working on the case, claiming that Dowler had been smuggled out of the country to work as a prostitute and stripper at nightclubs in Poland, and that her death had been a cover-up. Farr was sectioned indefinitely under the Mental Health Act on 19 October 2006 for being a serious psychological danger to the public due to his history of paranoid schizophrenia after admitting a charge of harassment.

On 25 February 2008, the Metropolitan Police announced that Levi Bellfield was their prime suspect in the murder inquiry. On that day, he had been convicted on two murder charges as well as a charge of attempted murder. It was reported Bellfield is a "prime suspect" in the case and Surrey police were "very interested" in questioning him, not least due to his suspicious behaviour around the time of Milly's disappearance and the fact that he had lived in Walton-on-Thames, but have yet to charge Bellfield or indeed anyone else in connection with Milly's death.

On 7 March 2008, another man was arrested over the 'disposal' of a car linked to the murder but was released later that same day.

Dowler's parents, Sally and Bob Dowler, launched a charity called Milly's Fund on the day of Dowler's memorial service in October 2002. The charity provides risk assessment advice to teenagers, youth workers and educators. Its work includes the "Teach UR Mum 2 TXT" campaign, which encourages children and parents to stay in contact via text messaging, including a glossary for parents of commonly-used SMS abbreviations. The campaign was awarded "Best Use of Mobile for Accessibility" at the 2004 GSM Association Awards. In October 2003, the running of the charity was handed over to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. At the 2005 Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, a garden designed in Dowler's memory by Penny Smith won the Tudor Rose award, the show's highest honour. A magenta sweetpea was named after her and made publicly available by Matthewman's Sweetpeas
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 15:39
 

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