Millie Dowler composite

The Abduction of Milly Dowler on C5: Was her phone hacked? Why did it take police so long to catch Levi Bellfield?

And where is killer Levi now?

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The devastating murder of Milly Dowler is re-examined in a new Channel 5 documentary – but was Milly Dowler’s phone hacked and why?

Why did it take police so long to catch Levi Bellfield?

And where is the serial killer now?

Here’s everything you need to know about The Abduction of Milly Dowler on Channel 5.

Levi Bellfield Credit: YouTube
Levi Bellfield killed at least three victims (Credit: YouTube)

Read more: Manhunt: Martin Clunes to return as DCI Colin Sutton for new series of ITV drama

Was Milly Dowler’s phone hacked?

The News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone.

The now defunct tabloid newspaper illegally targeted the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler and her family in March 2002.

They unwittingly interfered with police inquiries into her disappearance, while the deleted voicemails gave her family false hope.

Family lawyer called the actions “heinous and despicable”.

Their statement read: “It is distress heaped upon tragedy to learn that the News of the World had no humanity at such a terrible time.

“The fact that they were prepared to act in such a heinous way that could have jeopardised the police investigation and give them false hope is despicable.”

Why was Milly Dowler’s phone hacked?

News of the World journalists hired private investigators to get them a story, within a very short time of Milly vanishing.

Then, with the help of its own full-time private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, the NOTW started illegally intercepting mobile phone messages.

Scotland Yard found evidence that the paper hacked directly into the voicemail of the missing girl’s own phone.

The News of the World listened and recorded every message, as Milly’s friends and parents called and left messages begging her to get in touch.

Media boss Rupert Murdoch later made a “full and humble” apology to the family of the murdered schoolgirl.

Milly’s family later accepted £3m damages from publishers News International.

Levi Bellfield Credit: YouTube
Levi Bellfield is currently exactly where he belongs – in jail (Credit: YouTube)

Read more: Levi Bellfield: Eldest daughter among his 11 children wants him to ‘rot in hell’

Milly Dowler’s phone hacked: Why did it take police so long to look at Levi?

Milly Dowler went missing on March 21 2002.

Police found her body in September of the same year.

A jury convicted Levi Bellfield of her murder in 2011 – nearly 10 years later.

So why so long?

Levi was first arrested in 2004 for a string of disgusting sexual offences.

A judge sentenced him to life in 2008 for the killing of Marsha McDonnell, 19, and Amélie Delagrange, 22.

Police charged him for the murder of Milly, eight years after her death.

Levi attacked up to 20 women, police suspected.

DCI Sutton, played by Martin Clunes in ITV’s Manhunt, led the investigation into the murder of Amélie.

With a lack of forensic evidence, DNA, or witnesses, he said he approached the case using old-fashioned police work to solve what he described as “the sort of case that could have happened in the 1950s”.

Ignoring the advice of senior officers, DCI Sutton made the connection between Amélie’s killer and the murder of 19-year-old Marsha.

Police arrested Levi Bellfield on November 22, three months after the discovery of Amélie’s body, but did not charge him until 2006.

Police apology

Surrey police later apologised for missing opportunities in the hunt for Milly Dowler’s killer that could have led to Levi Bellfield’s arrest.

The vile predator went on to murder two more victims and attempt to murder a third.

He lived just 50 yards from where Milly was last seen in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, but police made no inquiries as to who lived there.

Meanwhile, Levi went on to murder Amélie Delagrange, 22, and Marsha McDonnell, 19, and attempt to murder Kate Sheedy, 18.

Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby admitted that “mistakes were made”.

“With the benefit of hindsight there are aspects we would have handled differently,” he said.

“Could we have done anything to catch him earlier? We have agonised over that issue.”

Manhunt, Martin Clunes Credit: ITV
Martin Clunes played DCI Sutton, the real life cop who bought Levi Bellfield to justice (Credit: ITV)

Where is Levi Bellfield now?

Dad-of-11 Levi is serving three life sentences.

The 52-year-old is currently locked up in HMP Frankland, Country Durham.

He attempted to take his own life in October 2019.

Before that, he was in HM Prison Wakefield.

The judge recommended that he should never be released from prison, or given parole.

Who is Milly Dowler murderer Levi Bellfield?

Levi is a former doorman and car clamper, who committed (at least) three murders.

In 2002, the sick criminal killed schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

He was born in Isleworth, London, in May 1968.

He converted to Islam in 2016 and changed his name to Yusuf Rahim.

Gruesome nicknames include The Bus Stop Stalker, The Bus Stop Killer and The Hammer Man.

Before moving on to murder, Levi was convicted of burglary, assault and driving offences.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton of the Metropolitan Police, who led the murder investigation, said of Levi: “When we started dealing with him he came across as very jokey, like he’s your best mate.

“But he’s a cunning individual, violent. He can switch from being nice to being nasty, instantly.”

Levi Bellfield victims Credit: YouTube
The victims of vile serial killer Levi Bellfield, but why was Milly Dowler’s phone hacked? (Credit: YouTube)

Who were Levi Bellfield’s victims besides Milly Dowler?

Levi murdered at least three young girls during his crime spree, and attempted others – including Kate Sheedy.

Kate was run over as she crossed the road near an entrance to an industrial estate in Isleworth on May 28 2004.

She survived, but suffered multiple injuries and spent several weeks in hospital.

She gave evidence against Levi nearly four years later when he was tried for her attempted murder.

He murdered Amélie Delagrange, Marsha McDonnell and Milly Dowler.

Who was Milly Dowler?

Amanda Jane ‘Milly’ Dowler was just 13 when Levi targeted her.

She disappeared after leaving Walton-on-Thames railway station on March 21 2002 and was found dead in Yateley Heath Woods six months later.

The search for Milly dominated news reports and newspaper headlines during that time, and for long afterwards.

In August 2009, Surrey Police submitted a dossier to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) containing evidence of Levi’s involvement in Milly’s murder.

Police charged Levi with the kidnapping and murder of Milly on March 30 2010.

They also charged him with the attempted kidnapping of then 12-year-old Rachel Cowles.

At the time, he refused to give evidence at his trial and denied any involvement in Milly’s death.

However, a jury convicted him of murder on June 23 2011, and he later confessed.

Milly Dowler Credit: YouTube
Levi Bellfield targeted Milly Dowler (Credit: YouTube)

The Abduction of Milly Dowler on Channel 5 – what’s it about?

This true crime documentary about the case of Milly Dowler looks in new detail at her murder.

The one-of looks at the role of the media, as well as the police investigation into her disappearance.

Why did it take so long for police to look at Levi Bellfield?

He lived just yards from where Milly was last seen, and was hiding in plain sight.

The documentary also looks at why the tabloids’ hacked Milly’s phone.

Milly Dowler’s phone hacked: Manhunt on ITV

In ManhuntMartin Clunes starred as DCI Sutton, who pursued serial killer Levi Bellfield.

The drama shows how cops eventually linked the murders of Amélie Delagrange, Marsha McDonnell and Milly Dowler.

Nine million viewers tuned in, making the show the highest rated new drama of 2019 on any channel.

ITV airs the second series of Manhunt later this year.

The Abduction of Milly Dowler airs on Thursday May 06 2021 at 9pm on Channel 5.

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