Police say ‘We made mistakes’ over Milly

THE police force that investigated Milly Dowler’s murder has apologised for allowing her killer to go undetected for two years.

Levi Bellfield went on to kill two more women after he had abducted and murdered Milly before finally being arrested in 2004.

After he was sentenced for the schoolgirl’s murder yesterday, Surrey Police Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby said: “We must accept that mistakes were made.”

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He said the force’s Chief Constable had met with the Dowler family to apologise.

The serial killer lived 50 yards from where Milly, 13, vanished in 2002 but did not become a suspect until he was arrested by police in London for the other crimes in 2004.

During the investigation into her disappearance police had knocked on Bellfield’s door 11 times but failed to contact him.

Bellfield, 43, has become the first person to receive two whole life terms but refused to attend court to face Milly’s family yesterday.

Milly disappeared on her way home from school in Station Road, Walton-on-Thames, in March 2002. Her decomposed body was found six months later in a wood in Yateley Heath, Hampshire, 25 miles away. It was impossible to say how she died.

Her family said that they felt let down by the police inquiry and the legal system after having their own lives examined during the trial.

During the hearing her parents had to face accusations that Milly might have run away or committed suicide because she was unhappy.

Milly’s father Bob Dowler faced the humiliation of admitting he had an interest in bondage sex. It was also said in court that Milly had found a porn magazine and felt let down by her father.

Milly’s mother Sally and sister Gemma had both broke down after a jury returned a guilty verdict against Bellfield in court on Thursday.

Yesterday Mrs Dowler held her head high and kept her family close as she faced the world to condemn Milly’s killer.

Mrs Dowler took a deep breath before becoming the first member of the family to address the media outside the Old Bailey.

Dressed immaculately and without a hair out of place, she said in a loud, clear teacher’s voice that the whole trial process had been “truly awful”.

The 51-year-old was confident and composed. It was hard to believe she was the same woman who, 24 hours earlier, had been distraught.

She had collapsed at the court and been carried away, wailing hysterically.

After complaining that “our family life has been scrutinised and laid open for everyone to inspect and comment upon”, she stood aside for her husband.

Mr Dowler, 59, was still the rock of his family, despite being humiliated in court. He described Bellfield as “spineless and gutless”.

But it was all too much for their surviving daughter Gemma, 25. She put her arms round him and wept as her mother consoled them both.

Mr Dowler added: “The trial has been a truly horrifying ordeal for my family. The questioning of my wife was particularly cruel and inhuman.”

Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses Louise Casey condemned the Dowlers’ treatment in court as “quite appalling”. She added: “We can’t let this continue.”

Det Chief Insp Maria Woodall said: “Milly’s family have been tortured by the actions of this devious and dangerous man.”

The chief Crown Prosecution Service lawyer for the South-East, Roger Coe Salazar, said later: “A prime focus of the prosecution team from the outset was to provide as much support to the Dowler family as possible.

“However we must recognise that there are some aspects of the trial, in particular in cross-examination, which no amount of general foresight can ever prepare someone for.”