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The Abduction of Milly Dowler

Duration: 1 x 90'

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With testimony from those closest to the case, this incredible film reveals the Missing Files from the botched investigation, exploring new details, and unearthing the unhealthy relationship between the police and the media.

The murder of 13-year-old schoolgirl Milly Dowler in March 2002 is one of the most notorious crimes in British history. A tangled web of lies, bungled investigations and family trauma that hit the headlines worldwide, and revealed a sordid affair between the police and the tabloids that dragged Milly’s family through hell.

Yet Levi Bellfield, the man who was eventually convicted of abducting and killing her, evaded suspicion for two years despite already having been reported for a series of violent offences against women and young girls, and living just yards from where Milly was last seen.

The Abduction of Milly Dowler - 1 x 90'

While the police struggled for leads, the all-powerful British tabloids were making their own attempts to solve the case and this programme uncovers the lengths they went to in pursuit of a story. Did their involvement slow the pursuit of a vicious killer?

As we follow the largest investigation ever carried out by Surrey Police, we discover that only three miles away from where Milly went missing, another schoolgirl was offered a lift by a strange man in a car just 24 hours before Milly vanished. She managed to get away and her mother reported the incident to police. But the information didn’t reach the team investigating Milly’s disappearance. The stranger was reportedly in a red car, a detail that would later be significant.

In September 2002 a body was found by mushroom pickers, everybody’s worst fears were confirmed and Operation Ruby became a murder inquiry. Yet police seemed to be no closer to catching a killer.

Until, in 2004, a neighbouring police force investigating a string of other murders and attacks on women nearby began to look at Bellfield. Testimony from his ex-partner, Johanna Collings, who tells her story in this programme, was key to his capture. It was only at this point that the police joined the dots and Bellfield became the main suspect in the Milly Dowler case.

Bellfield was finally convicted of the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler in 2011, almost a decade after her disappearance.

Surrey Police apologised to her family, admitting to “mistakes” made during the early investigation. And just two weeks later, the News of the World, the powerful British tabloid responsible for the hacking of Milly’s phone, was closed for good by owner Rupert Murdoch.

This fascinating programme tells the story of how the death of one teenager provided the spark that would unravel the unhealthy relationship between the police and the media, with a tragic story of murder, malpractice and missed opportunities.

A tragic story of murder, malpractice and missed opportunities.

Screening here soon...


For Channel 5

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