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EDITIONS
Friday, 20 September, 2002, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Sad end to agonising six months
Police think this could be the last sighting of Milly
Police think this could be the last sighting of Milly
Police say human remains found in Hampshire are almost certainly those of missing Surrey teenager Amanda Dowler, known to her family and friends as Milly. The discovery seems to bring to an end an agonising six months for her parents.

Tattered home-made posters still flutter from many lamp-posts all over London's south-western suburbs, beseeching the public to report sightings of Milly Dowler.

The flyers were distributed in late March and early April by Milly's parents, Robert and Sally, as they desperately sought information on their daughter's disappearance.

But the posters elicited little concrete information and that has been one of the most amazing and frustrating aspects of this case - the complete lack of clues.

Phone call

The discovery of a body will provide fresh impetus to the investigation.

The remains seem to have been at the spot near Yateley, Hampshire for weeks or even months and the passage of time will have reduced the likelihood of finding forensic evidence.

But there may well be DNA evidence which has survived and can help the police.

Amanda Dowler
Milly led a normal life in quiet suburbia
Milly was last seen on 21 March as she walked home from the railway station at Walton-on-Thames in Surrey.

The 13-year-old had left Heathside School in Weybridge and caught a train back to Walton-on-Thames.

She bought some chips at the station cafe and then rang her father on a friend's mobile - her own had run out of credit - to tell him she was running late.

Sniffer dogs

She left for home just after 4pm but never arrived.

Her parents contacted police, who quickly realised she was no ordinary runaway.

Teenagers go missing all over the UK every day of the week but Milly had never done it before and there was nothing to suggest she was upset or had rowed with her parents.

The scene of the crime
Milly's body was found in Yateley Heath Forest
Surrey Police launched a manhunt involving 50 officers and sniffer dogs amid fears she had been abducted.

The family released home video footage of her which was shown on the BBC's Crimewatch UK programme.

The story of Milly's disappearance was given widespread media coverage.

No sign

But despite the avalanche of publicity few clues emerged and no-one reported having seen any struggle along the route Milly would have taken.

Police followed up several lines of inquiry - her computer was trawled for evidence she had met someone in an internet chatroom - and her parents and sister, Gemma, made several emotional appeals on television.

A national newspaper offered a 100,000 reward but the weeks slipped by without any sign of her and in June detectives told her parents she was almost certainly dead.

CCTV clues

CCTV footage was sent to the US so that it could be enhanced by experts from the FBI.

The dark saloon is shown travelling down Station Avenue
Police have appealed to the owner of this car to come forward
They say a figure standing nearing a dark-coloured saloon car may have been Milly.

But they are unable to ascertain the car's number plate or a description of the driver.

Detectives can now be expected to renew their inquiries and they will be looking for links between possible suspects and the Yateley area.

They may also seek CCTV footage from the M3 motorway, which runs close to Yateley, to see if they can find any cars on 21 March which can also be seen in the Walton-on-Thames CCTV pictures.

Hope of justice

The inquiry has many similarities to the Sarah Payne murder.

In that case a young girl vanished into thin air with only the vaguest of sightings of a white van.

Her body was then found in a field several miles away.

Despite the lack of clues good police work led to the arrest and eventual conviction of Roy Whiting.

The Dowler family will be hoping for a similar result but even if someone is brought to justice it will not compensate them for their loss.


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