Dramatisation of Police Memoir Reveals Details of Levi Bellfield Investigation

Last week’s Mail on Sunday included a two-page article by retired Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, describing how his team at the Metropolitan Police tracked down the serial killer Levi Bellfield in 2004. The piece was published ahead of a three-part dramatisation of the investigation called Manhunt, which was broadcast on ITV over the week and starred Martin Clunes as Sutton. The serial was based on Sutton’s memoir, also called Manhunt.

Bellfield is probably best remembered as the killer of Milly Dowler, whose phone was infamously hacked by the News of the World before her death was confirmed; however, he also had other victims, and it was the investigation of these crimes by Sutton and his team that revealed the link with Milly. As Sutton writes:

We put Bellfield under 24/7 surveillance and, while looking again through his intelligence file, something else struck a chord.

It showed that, in 2002, Bellfield was living at 24 Collingwood Place, Walton-on-Thames – where the van had headed after Amelie [Delagrange]’s murder, and where her phone had last ‘pinged’. I got out an A-Z street map and saw it was virtually opposite Walton railway station. Instantly, I realised the implications.

Milly Dowler had been abducted from Station Avenue, Walton-on-Thames and, although I had never worked on the case, I knew that the last sighting of her was at a nearby bus stop.

Sutton also writes that “the national press” had already “suggested the attacks could be linked to the Milly Dowler case in Walton-on-Thames, six miles away”, but that this had been rejected.

The story depicts Surrey Police as resistant and resentful of a Metropolitan officer suddenly presenting a new theory about a case that they had been working on for several years; and in his Mail on Sunday article, Sutton is critical of Surrey over “very basic investigative work not having been done.” (1) Surrey Police acknowledged mistakes in 2011; and one wonders whether other Surrey investigations suffered from comparable negligence.

Bellfield was convicted of the crimes investigated by the Metropolitan Police in 2008, but not of Milly’s murder in Surrey until 2011. The drama does not go into how the case against him for this crime was developed in the meantime, although a self-publicising former officer named Laura Richards wrote a book taking credit for it, titled Profiling a Killer: Inside the Hunt for Levi Bellfield. According to the blurb:

The disappearance of 13-year-old Milly Dowler gripped the nation in 2002. For six agonising months her family waited for news. Finally, human remains were found which were identified as Milly. Yet the case remained unsolved for eight long years until finally, in 2010, a man already convicted of two other murders was arrested. This man was Levi Bellfield.
 
Laura Richards was the Criminal Behaviour Psychologist working on Milly’s case, as well as several other murders of young women. It was her theory that these murders were linked, and her profiling methods and groundbreaking theories that led directly to new evidence which was used to convict Bellfield.

This was apparently disputed by Sutton, as was reported in the Mail on Sunday in 2016:

Last year, former Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, who led the Levi Bellfield case, was furious to learn that Ms Richards had exaggerated her part in the investigation of Milly’s killer.

Ms Richards’s forthcoming book, Profiling A Killer, depicted her at the centre of the inquiry and Mr Sutton ‘hit the roof’, according to a former colleague.

‘He wrote to the publishers telling them it was a ‘gross misrepresentation’ and she had overstated her role,’ he said. Penguin Random House said the book was due to be released last June, but that has been postponed until March next year.

It is not known if this is because of Mr Sutton’s complaints.

These details formed part of a longer article raising concerns about Richards’s professional credibility – a matter of some public concern given her public profile as a supposed expert on stalking and as the head of an anti-stalking charity. (2) Richards’s book is listed on Amazon and other sites as having been published in either 2012 or 2015, and it seems that two covers were produced for it (for Transworld and for Bantam). However, no copy is available from anywhere, and it is not listed in the catalogue of the British Library – we than thus be sure that it is a “ghost” book that was never actually published (3).

Footnotes

1. In his book, Sutton also complains that Surrey Police did not share much information with him. He writes that: “Like anyone else outside their team, I was completely ignorant of the mess they had made of dealing with the hacking of Milly’s phone by the News of the World; when that became public knowledge in 2011, their coyness became, to me, a lot more understandable”.

2. For a time, Richards was associated with Nadine Dorries MP, and it remains unknown whether input from her influenced Bedfordshire Police’s decision to waste resources trawling for non-existent evidence that critics of the MP were “stalking” her (pointedly, Dorries did not make any statement in support of Richards after the 2016 MoS article appeared).

3. Another controversy involving Richards was an American documentary series called The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, which involved a re-investigation of the case “led by former FBI agent and criminal profiler Jim Clemente and behavioral analyst Laura Richards”. The series was criticised for errors, and for what one reviewer called “one of the more ghoulish, disgusting things to recently happen on television”. A defamation case was afterwards brought against CBS and “other parties” including Richards, and has just recently been settled in Colorado. I recently noted a few things about criminal profiling here.