A new documentary shines light on what led to the captures and incarceration of serial killer Levi Bellfield, who killed 13-year-old Milly Dowler in 2002.
5 Mistakes that Caught the Killer, which airs at 9pm tonight on Channel 5, revisits the case of Bellfield, who was initially branded the Bus Stop Killer, after killing several women in 2002, 2003 and 2004, using different means.
In the span of a few months, operating around West London, the serial killer took the life of Marsha McDonnell, 19, Amélie Delagrange, a 22-year-old French student, and tried but failed to kill Kate Sheedy, 18, by running her over with his car.
Bellfield, now 52, was arrested in 2004 and convicted to three consecutive life sentences in 2008, before being given another life term in 2011 for the 2002 murder of Milly Dowler, making him the first person to receive two whole-life terms.
Speaking for the first time about the case, detective Sargent Gary Cunningham, who interviewed Bellfield during the investigation by the Metropolitan Police Murder Squad, told the documentary how the serial killer turned his back and refused to answer questions.
And he revealed that after the killer refused to co-operate, he made double-sided copies of images of the victims’ faces so that Bellfield couldn’t turn them over to avoid looking at them.
Cunningham said that Bellfield’s demeanour during his interview confirmed their suspicion he was responsible for the two murders and attempted murders of 2004.
The detective explained Bellfield tried to pin the murders on an ‘associate’ who used his car without his knowledge, but the officers did not buy it.
‘His tactic was just to blame someone else. It’s the way Bellfield operates,’ he said.
‘Bellfield couldn’t talk enough and he was just talking his head off. And he was apportioning exactly what’d he done to the other party and blaming them.’
Cunningham explained Bellfield tried to make the officers believe he was ‘shocked’ and ‘outraged’ by what this associate of his had done.
But when the line of questioning moved on to Marsha, Amelie and Kate, Bellfield’s demeanour changed.
In an extract of this interview mentioned by Cunningham on the show, one could hear the detective ask Bellfield: ‘What chance did she have? no chance at all, running over her twice, leaving her for dead.’
To each sentence, Bellfield could only reply ‘no comment.’
‘He just refused to engage in any way and in fact at one point, he turned his back on the interview room. He turned his seat 180 degrees and put his back to me,’ Cunningham said.
‘I could see Bellfield analysing what I was putting to him. I could see the cogs going round in his head thinking “How am I gonna get out of that one”,’ he added.
The detective explained what tactics he employed to get a reaction from the suspected killer.
‘I had the three pictures that I’d put in front of him on the interview table of Amelie, Kate and Marsha.
‘He just looked at me and turn the pictures over like that. Put them face down,’ he added.
‘So I went back that night to the police station and I double-sided copied them. I just did the same thing the next day in the interview room and he just looked at me.
‘He smirked the way he does, turned them over again. Saw, was taken aback when the three girls were still staring at him.’
This refusal to cooperate in any way alarmed Cunningham to the fact Bellfield was definitely guilty of the murders and attempted murder.
‘For goodness sake, if you haven’t done this, tell me”,’ Cunningham told the camera as if talking to Bellfield.
Levi Bellfield killed Marsha McDonnell near her home of Hampton, London, by hitting her with the head with a blunt object. She died in hospital two days after being admitted in February 2003.
The next year, on May 28 2004, he ran over Kate Sheedy several times with his car. She survived but sustained severe injuries and spent several months in hospital. She testified against him in court in 2008.
Three months later, in August 2004, Amélie Delagrange was found in Twickenham Green with serious head injuries and died in hospital the same night. The investigation found that her murder was linked to Marsha McDonnell.
Bellfield was arrested on 22 November 2004 on suspicion of the murder of Amélie Delagrange. On 25 November, he was charged with three counts of rape in Surrey and West London.
Further charges in December 2004, included assaulting a woman in Twickenham between 1995 and 1997 and remanded in custody.
Bellfield was rearrested and charged with Amélie Delagrange’s murder on 2 March 2006, along with the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy and the attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm to another victim named Irma Dragoshi.
He was charged with the murder of Marsha McDonnell in May 2006.
After he was trialed and convicted with two life sentences in 2008, Surrey police introduced new evidence that he was linked to the 2002 murder of Milly Dowler.
The 13-year-old had gone missing in March 2002 and was found dead six months later. Bellfield was charged with kidnapping and Milly’s murder and was found guilty in 2011.
Bellfield refused to give evidence at his trial and claimed his innocence in the Dowler case.