England

Schoolgirl Milly Dowler 'gone in the blink of an eye'

Teenager Milly Dowler vanished "in the blink of an eye" on her way home from school, the trial of her alleged murderer has been told.

Levi Bellfield, 42, formerly of West Drayton, west London, denies murder and kidnapping the 13-year-old in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on 21 March 2002.

Her remains were found six months later in woods in Yateley Heath, Hampshire.

Bellfield went on to murder two other women and tried to murder a third, the Old Bailey jury heard.

'Worst nightmare'

Brian Altman, QC, also said Bellfield and his family had rented a flat "literally just yards away from the spot where Milly was last seen alive".

He said the day before Milly went missing, a man the prosecution allege was Bellfield had tried to abduct another schoolgirl in uniform a few miles away.

Rachel Cowles, 11, was approached by a man in a red car in Shepperton, Surrey, on 20 March that year.

Mr Altman said a man resembling Bellfield offered the schoolgirl a lift but she declined and he drove off.

He said there was "no doubt that Levi Bellfield was responsible for both".

"He has been proven to be a predatory and violent offender towards women," he said.

Amanda Dowler, who was known as Milly, disappeared as she walked home from a railway station after school.

She had just called her father to say she was on her way home.

Mr Altman told the jury Milly had "vanished" and was "gone in the blink of an eye".

Image caption Bellfield is also accused of trying to abduct an 11-year-old girl the day before Milly disappeared

He said: "Milly had simply disappeared in a flash from a street in a suburban town in broad daylight.

"This was of course every parent's worst nightmare."

Dental records

CCTV showed a red car Bellfield was using at the time leaving the area within 22 minutes of Milly's abduction, prosecutors said.

At the time of Milly's disappearance, Bellfield was living with his partner Emma Mills and their two children in a rented ground-floor flat.

Mr Altman said Ms Mills and their two children had been away on the day Milly disappeared. The following day, Bellfield had decided to move them with "indecent haste".

The jury was told Milly had had an ordinary day at school in Weybridge, taken a train with friends and spent time with them in the station cafe at Walton-on-Thames.

Then she began to walk home along Station Avenue, the jury heard.

Mr Altman said Milly had been popular among her friends and "was an ordinary girl developing into a fine young woman."

She lived in Walton Park with her parents Robert and Sally and older sister Gemma.

For six months, the family waited for news before Milly's remains were eventually found by mushroom pickers in undergrowth about 25 miles (40km) from where she was last seen.

Running her over

Milly was identified by dental records but the cause of death could not be determined due to the length of time that had passed.

Image caption Milly lived in Walton Park with her parents and older sister

Bellfield, a former wheelclamper, was convicted at the Old Bailey in 2008 of attacks on women in west London over a period of just over two years.

He killed Marsha McDonnell, 19, in February 2003 and Amelie Delagrange, 22, in August 2004, by striking them on the head with a blunt instrument.

In May 2004, he attempted to murder Kate Sheedy, 18, by deliberately running her over in a car.

Mr Altman said the offences bore "similarity in many respects" to Milly's murder and Rachel's attempted abduction.

The trial, which is expected to last two months, has been adjourned until Wednesday.

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