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The Missing Files: The Secrets of the Milly Dowler Case

Duration: 2 x 90'

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With testimony from those closest to the case, these incredible films reveal the Missing Files from the botched investigation, exploring new details about Bellfield’s dark past, 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.

Delivered in two parts the films can be shown individually or as a mini series, the first detailing the abduction of Milly Dowler, a tragic story of murder, malpractice and missed opportunities and the second offering an in-depth profile of the One Man Killing Machine - Levi Bellfield

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.
 

Levi Bellfield: In Plain Sight - 1 x 90'

When serial killer Levi Bellfield was convicted in 2011, the judge told him he would never be released from prison, but his story is far from over. In this film, we go into new detail about Bellfield’s dark past to ask how did a violent offender like Bellfield go undetected for so long? And how many other violent crimes might he have committed?

In 1980, the body of 14-year-old schoolgirl Patsy Morris was found on Hounslow Heath, near to where Bellfield lived. Bellfield’s childhood friend Michelle reveals that this was an area which they often used to play truant from school and that Levi knew Patsy well. Despite being only 12 when she was killed, some suspect that he may have been involved. We may never know who killed Patsy Morris, but if it was Bellfield, it wouldn’t be the last time he’d kill.

Bellfield became known to police from a young age and went on to collect a string of convictions for petty offences such as car crime and theft. He would later graduate to dealing drugs, alongside his work as a wheel clamper and bouncer. He was a bully, manipulating and controlling his friends and partners. We hear from Levi’s ex-girlfriend Johanna, who tipped police off about her abusive ex-partner with a hatred for blondes.

We also meet David Collins who, as an ambitious young journalist working for popular tabloid The Daily Mirror, made contact with Bellfield in 2009 when he was serving a life sentence for murdering two women and attempting to murder a third: winning his trust and, with it, the scoop of a lifetime. Bellfield had previously remained tight-lipped about the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler, but in his taped interview with Collins we hear the moment when the cold-blooded killer was caught off guard, revealing details that would be key to those investigating the unsolved case of Milly.

We hear too from Debbie Weissang a senior social worker in West London who, with Bellfield locked up for good, recognised his name in a referral concerning a teen pregnancy. Debbie decided to look into this further and soon found “a massive web was appearing”. She produced a report, saying she believes Bellfield was one of a group of men who, between them, were responsible for the grooming and abuse of as many as 17 young women and girls.

Debbie gave the report to the council, but says she heard nothing back. A year later, none other than David Collins approached Debbie and in 2018, went to press with the headline “Levi Bellfield was in grooming gang”. Since then, more women have come forward to Debbie with allegations of abuse and we hear from a survivor who has bravely told Debbie her story relating to associates of Bellfield.

Screening here soon...

 

For Channel 5

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