Today at the Central Criminal Court, former night club doorman and wheel-clamper Levi Bellfield was convicted of the March 2002 murder of 13 year old Amanda Jane Dowler
; last year he was charged with her kidnap and murder and with the attempted kidnapping of another schoolgirl, Rachel Cowles
. They jury has not yet returned a verdict on the attempted kidnapping charge, the evidence for which is wafer thin. The evidence that he murdered Amanda Dowler was not on the face of it overwhelming, but I for one have long believed he was responsible. And at this point, I must declare an interest.
In November 2002, I set up a website concerning the case of Michael Stone
, who was convicted of the 1996 Chillenden Murders. Next month, Michael John Stone – who is not to be confused with convicted Ulster Loyalist killer Michael Stone – will have been behind bars for fourteen years after being convicted, twice, of one of the most high profile double murders in British criminal history. The evidence against him is not so much non-existent as ludicrous; after Bellfield was convicted of the murders
of Marsha McDonnell and Amélie Delagrange, the parallels with the murders of Dr Lin Russell and her daughter Megan were strikingly obvious both to me, and to John Aidiniantz
, who has set up a second website about Michael Stone, and has been researching Bellfield’s history as far as he can. Recently we have been joined by Matthew Rudge, who has made one documentary
relating to Bellfield, and is sure to make another one.
Mr Rudge was in Court 8 today, and, quoting verbatim: “After the verdict i immediately got a call from the literary agent i have been discussing for over 12 months about the book i am working on, highlighting the Bellfield/Chillenden links - and also the unfair trial Stone had in the first place. ”
There are though people who could and should research this connection who have far greater resources than ours – which amounts largely to determination and persistence. When I was at the Central Criminal Court on June 16
, I got into conversation with a Metropolitan Police officer about Bellfield. Although it was largely one-sided, he was not entirely closed to the suggestion that Bellfield rather than Stone was responsible for the Chillenden Murders. Now it is to be hoped that Kent Police as well as Surrey Police and the Met take another look at him in relation to this crime, and indeed they might, because for the first time Stone’s lawyer Paul Bacon
has added his voice.
Returning to the murder for which he has just been convicted, it has to be conceded that the case was not overwhelming, and there is some truth in the claim by his defence counsel Jeffrey Samuels QC that it was tailored to fit the facts, but it didn’t take that much tailoring. Mr Samuels was correct to point out that snatching a thirteen year old girl off the street or luring her to his apartment did not fit the modus operandi
of the two murders for which he had already been convicted, both of which post-dated the disappearance of Amanda Dowler. But neither did his attempted murder of Kate Sheedy. While psychologists, psychiatrists and our vastly over-hyped criminal profilers may argue that a knife – or in Bellfield’s case a hammer – is used as a substitute penis, it is difficult to make out this argument for a car. Bellfield ran over Miss Sheedy and then reversed over her. The common denominator is sadism, or perhaps evil is a better word.
We may never know precisely what happened, how he committed this crime, and if only for the sake of the victim’s family it is probably best that we never do. After the verdict, Sally Dowler, Amanda’s mother, left the court and collapsed in tears.
In his closing speech, Brian Altman QC for the Crown alluded to Bellfield as a serial killer; this claim was technically incorrect. It isn’t anymore.
Surrey Police have come in for some criticism over the way they handled this case, and Chief Constable Mark Rowley is to apologise for their apparent failure to bring him to book before he went on to murder again. At the risk of being seen as a police apologist, it has to be stressed that wisdom in hindsight is a wonderful thing. Although Bellfield picked up his first conviction – for burglary – as long ago as 1981, as a juvenile, he was never really on the radar until after his arrest on suspicion of the murder of Miss Delagrange, and it has to be stressed that the Dowler case was originally a missing person inquiry rather than a murder investigation.