Milly Dowler family: 'Too high a price' for Bellfield conviction

Media caption,
Reaction from Milly's mother, sister and father and DCI Maria Woodall of Surrey Police and Nigel Pilkington of the CPS

The family of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler have said they paid "too high a price" for the conviction of Levi Bellfield.

Bellfield was given a whole-life tariff for murdering Milly in Surrey in 2002.

Milly's father Bob Dowler said the trial had been "mentally scarring" and the justice system was loaded unfairly in favour of the criminal.

The director of public prosecutions said it raised "fundamental questions" about the treatment of victims.

Keir Starmer QC said: "Those questions require answers and we will be contributing to the review by the Ministry of Justice into all aspects of victim support."

'Adverse publicity'

Milly's mother, Sally Dowler, said their daughter had been defamed in court as unhappy and depressed.

She said the trial had been a "truly awful experience".

But she said "at last the man responsible for the cruel murder of our darling daughter" had been brought to justice.

Image caption,
Milly Dowler's remains were found six months after she disappeared

Bellfield had also faced a charge of attempting to abduct Rachel Cowles, who is now 21, but the jury was discharged and there will be no retrial.

Defence lawyers cited an "avalanche of adverse publicity" following Bellfield's conviction on Thursday for murdering Milly.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC is to consider whether there has been any possible contempt of court.

Speaking outside court Ms Cowles said she was hurt and angry by what she called media coverage which had "robbed her of justice".

'Grotesque and distressing'

Mrs Dowler said Milly was happy, vivacious and fun-loving, rather than the depressed girl described by Bellfield's defence team.

She added: "To actually see the man in court - a man capable of such a vile and inhuman crime has been grotesque and distressing for us.

"The length the system goes to protect his human rights seems so unfair compared to what we, as a family, have had to endure."

Mrs Dowler said the "pain and grief" of Milly's murder would never go away.

Image caption,
Levi Bellfield had denied murdering schoolgirl Milly Dowler

Mrs Dowler collapsed after giving evidence during the trial, which had heard letters and poems written by her daughter describing herself as a "disappointment".

Following this, the prosecution decided not to call Milly's sister Gemma to give evidence.

Details of the family's private life were also revealed in court, including the fact that Milly discovered pornography magazines at the family home.

It was also revealed that Mr Dowler was initially considered a suspect in her disappearance after police found bondage material at their family home.

During the prosecution's closing speeches, Brian Altman QC accused Bellfield of putting Milly's grieving parents on trial.

Mr Dowler said the trial had been a "truly horrifying ordeal for the family".

He said: "We have had to relive all the emotions and thoughts of nine years ago when Milly first went missing and was then found murdered.

"During our questioning my wife and I both felt as though we were on trial.

"The questioning of my wife was particularly cruel and inhuman, resulting in her collapsing after leaving the stand.

"We despair of a justice system which is so loaded in favour of the perpetrator of the crime."

Milly's sister, Gemma Dowler said: "I can honestly say that the day my mother and father were questioned by the defence QC Mr Samuels was the worst day of my life.

"It is hard to believe but it was worse than when I heard the news that the remains were that of my sister Milly.

"The way my parents were questioned can only be described as mental torture. Have they not suffered enough?"

Roger Coe Salazar, of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the South East, said: "There is no doubt that this experience has been extremely distressing for the Dowler family and it is impossible not to be moved and disturbed by the sentiments they have expressed today.

"I and my staff find the courage that they have displayed over such a long period of time, and most recently during the trial, most humbling."

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