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Milly's parents furious over 'awful' murder trial ordeal

THE family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler launched a scathing attack on the British justice system yesterday as their daughter's "spineless and gutless" killer was given an unprecedented second whole-life jail term.

The Dowlers were also critical of the initial Surrey Police investigation during which chances were missed to catch Levi Bellfield, who went on to murder two more victims.

Milly's mother Sally welcomed Bellfield's conviction but said the trial had been a "truly awful experience".

Milly's father Bob said his family had had to pay "too high a price" for Bellfield's conviction, saying the trial had been a "mentally scarring process" and the justice system was loaded unfairly in favour of the criminal.

And Milly's sister Gemma said the day her parents were questioned by Bellfield's lawyer in court was the "worst day of my life", adding: "It feels like we were the criminals and we were on trial." The family spoke outside the Old Bailey in London after Bellfield's trial finally ended yesterday.

He was convicted yesterday of abducting and murdering 13-year-old Milly after she walked past his home.

The jury was discharged yesterday without reaching a verdict on a charge of attempting to abduct 11-year-old Rachel Cowles the day before Bellfield snatched Milly in March 2002.

It took Milly's family nine years to get justice, even though her killer had been living 50 yards from where she was last seen in Station Avenue, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. But justice came at the price of the Dowler family being "put on trial" in a process Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses Louise Casey condemned as "quite appalling".

Both Mr Dowler (59) and his teacher wife Sally (51) broke down while giving evidence when the defence suggested their daughter may have run away because she was unhappy.

For Mr Dowler, an IT management consultant, there was the added humiliation of having to admit he had an interest in bondage sex.

Milly had found a porn magazine with contact numbers for women providing kinky sex nine months before her death, and felt let down by her father, the court heard.

This led to detectives considering Mr Dowler as a suspect -- the first of 54 checked out by Surrey Police over the years.

Ms Casey said the Dowlers' experience in court was far from an isolated case and she warned that it must be stopped to avoid the risk of rapists and murderers walking the streets because people do not feel able to report crimes or give evidence.

Irish Independent