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Saturday, 21 September, 2002, 03:20 GMT 04:20 UK
Milly's body found
Forensic team near where body was found
A police forensic team prepares to investigate the scene
Police say they believe remains found in remote woodland are those of missing schoolgirl Amanda Dowler.

Detectives say dental records of the remains have matched those of the 13-year-old, who went missing six months ago.

Amanda, who was known to her family and friends as Milly, disappeared as she walked home from Walton-on-Thames railway station, Surrey, in March.

Detective Chief Superintendent Craig Denholm, from Surrey Police, said: "Our worst fears have been confirmed and I can now tell you that the search for Milly has changed from a missing persons inquiry into a murder investigation."

Milly Dowler
It is six months since Milly's disappearance

The remains were discovered at Yateley Heath Forest, near Fleet, Hampshire, on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Denholm visited the scene in Hampshire as Amanda's parents marked the six-month anniversary of her disappearance.

The news confirming that detectives were treating the case as a murder inquiry was released at a media briefing on Friday.

DNA tests

Detective Superintendent Allan Betts, from Hampshire Police, said: "Dental comparisons were carried out at the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke by a forensic odontologist.

"She compared the remains in Yateley Heath woods found yesterday with the dental records of Amanda Dowler.

"We can now confirm that the results of this examination that the remains are almost certainly those of missing Amanda.

"DNA tests will be carried out as soon as possible to confirm this.


Amanda was such a special, happy and fun loving girl who gave her friendship and support to so many others

Glyn Willoughby, Heathside School principal
"Of course our thoughts and sympathies are with Amanda's family at this very difficult time."

Mr Betts said Hampshire officers were now handing the investigation over to Mr Denholm, who had been leading the police search for Milly since her disappearance.

Mr Denholm said his team remained committed "as we always have been, to finding what exactly happened to Milly".

"We are now much closer to discovering that and to bringing the person or persons to justice."

He said his officers would be working closely with Hampshire Police over the next few weeks to "make sure that no stone is left unturned in the hunt for Milly's killer".

Map showing Fleet and Walton-on-Thames
The body was found near Fleet, in Hampshire
Glyn Willoughby, principal of Heathside School, Weybridge, where Milly was in Year Nine, said everyone there was "very upset and distressed" by the teenager's death, and extended their sympathies to her parents Bob and Sally, and sister Gemma.

"We are also thinking of Amanda's friends who will be very upset by this terrible news," she added.

"Amanda was such a special, happy and fun loving girl who gave her friendship and support to so many others.

"She was always cheerful and kind and was a pleasure to teach.""

Last phone call

Land surrounding the area where the remains were found by a couple collecting mushrooms has been sealed off.

Members of the media were asked on Friday evening to move back half a mile as detectives widened their search area, and forensic experts are working under searchlights.

Hampshire Police said the couple had discovered the remains at about 1400 BST on Wednesday, but had not informed police until Thursday.

The spot is about 25 miles away from where the teenager was last seen.

Amanda disappeared on 21 March after she phoned her father to say she would be home in half an hour.

But the teenager disappeared from near Walton-on-Thames railway station just after 1608 BST that afternoon.

Enhanced footage

Milly's disappearance triggered a UK-wide police investigation.

Surrey Police studied closed-circuit television of the area in an attempt to find a clue to her disappearance.

The FBI enhanced the footage to help gain more information about Milly's last-known movements.

Two men have been arrested in connection with her disappearance but both were released without charge.

In interviews given shortly before the discovery of Milly's remains, her mother Sally said she feared her daughter had been murdered.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Clarence Mitchell
"The remains... were found by a couple"
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore at Yateley Heath
"Around 100 officers now involved"

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