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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Milly discovery prompts 350 calls
Milly's father Bob (centre) mother Sally (right) and Chief Supt Craig Denholm (left) arrive at church
The Dowler family said prayers for their daughter
Surrey Police have received 350 phone calls since the body of missing schoolgirl Amanda "Milly" Dowler was discovered last Thursday, officers have revealed.

Detectives are sifting through the information to see if they produce any new leads in the hunt for her killer.

A church service on Sunday, attended by the 13-year-old's family, was told she was taken "by the sheer force of human evil".

Before the service, in Walton-on-Thames, Milly's parents said in a statement that they would not rest until "the monster responsible for this ghastly crime is behind bars."

Well-wisher arrives at the church
The community is grief-stricken
Mother Sally Dowler broke down and cried as the congregation at St Mary's church prayed for justice for her daughter, known by the family as Milly.

Mrs Dowler, 43, and her husband Bob, joined 250 church-goers in prayers for the teenager after Milly's remains were found in Hampshire on Wednesday.

In the statement the couple told of their relief and sadness that the "long agonising wait" of news of what had happened to their daughter was finally over.

"Now we can bring her home and say goodbye.

"A feeling of relief but so very, very sad.

"No one can hurt her now, darling Milly," they said in a statement.

But they vowed: "We will not rest until the monster responsible for this ghastly crime is brought to justice and is behind bars."

'Far from cruelty'

During the service Vicar Tim Sedgley led prayers for Milly and prayers were also said for police officers involved in the investigation.

The Reverend Graham Holdaway, who led the service, prayed for all those involved in the investigation and "those who have had gruesome tasks to fulfil over the last few days.

"We support them with our prayers as they search for justice for Milly.

"We thank you that Amanda is in your gentle and loving hands, far from the cruelty and violence and harm of our world."

Reverend Mary Stokes at the church service
Rev Stokes: "Agonising loss of parents and family"
At this point Mrs Dowler lost her composure and wept.

Milly's sister Gemma, 16, did not feel able to attend the service but her grandmother joined Milly's parents.

Reverend Holdaway told the congregation how the church had lit a candle for Milly when she disappeared in the hope that she would return.

"That hope has now been taken away from us," he said.

"We're lighting the candle again with a different hope.

'Bright joy'

"God, we commit Amanda into your ever-open arms. We shall remember her and give thanks for her life."

Reverend Mary Stokes told the congregation: "It certainly wasn't fair that Milly Dowler should be murdered with all her bright joy and potential destroyed.

"With her parents, sister and friends suffering such agonising uncertainty and family loss.

A picture taken on the Sunday before Milly's disappearance at a family fun run day
One of the last family pictures of Milly (centre)
"Our heart goes out to the family at this time, but no words are adequate.

"Many of the world's injustices are caused by human greed or thoughtlessness, or in the case of Milly by the force of sheer human evil.

"Behind this we see exactly the opposite of what God intends for us, and how He intends us to be."

Speaking before the service Vicar Sedgley said the town of Walton could only move on from the tragedy with justice.

Search teams

"It will only finally be freed from all this when there's a trial and a conviction," he said.

The one-hour service was held as police continued their murder investigation.

Search teams were scouring woodlands at Yateley Heath forest in Minley, near Fleet, Hampshire where Milly's remains were found six months after she disappeared on her way home from school.

During the day six German shepherd dogs, trained in the recovery of human remains, were drafted in from the Metropolitan Police, along with their handlers, to help in the search.

The BBC's Nick Thatcher
"The hunt for the killer continues"

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21 Sep 02 | England
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