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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 13:05 GMT
Years of agony for girl's parents
Surrey Police reward poster
Detectives carried out a vast search for clues in the case
It was the afternoon of 21 March 2002 when popular, vivacious 13-year-old Milly Dowler vanished as she walked home from a railway station after school.

It was out of character for the teenager and distraught with worry, her parents, Bob and Sally, called police to report her disappearance.

Immediately a large search was launched, with specialist officers, police dogs and a helicopter scouring the Walton area that night.

It was the beginning of an inquiry which was to become one of the largest in the history of Surrey Police.

In the days following Milly's disappearance, almost every shop, pub and business in Walton put up posters appealing for information about the teenager.

Over the months which followed, officers took 1,850 statements, carried out 3,500 house-to-house inquiries, searched 350 sites and trawled 35 miles of waterways.

And yet no trace of her was found.

Body found

Six months later, the family's worst fears were confirmed.

On 18 September, mushroom pickers in Yateley Heath, Hampshire found human remains. The body was later confirmed to be that of the teenager.

Milly Dowler and her mother Sally
Milly Dowler was a popular and bubbly teenager, her parents said

A year to the day after Milly went missing, a private funeral was held for her at an undisclosed location.

Six years on, and despite a massive inquiry and five arrests in connection with the killing, no-one has been charged with the teenager's murder.

Detectives left no stone unturned, but some leads in the inquiry proved fruitless.

In June 2003, detectives ruled out a connection to a church where a mystery DNA link was discovered.

Police had earlier made a DNA match between samples taken from a coffee cup found at a Sunderland church, and a stain on an item of clothing in the 13-year-old's bedroom.

Officers from Surrey visited the Ryhope area and took swabs from 55 men linked to the church, but none matched the DNA and it was later decided the match was the result of a coincidence.

In March 2005, a breakthrough came when police announced they were trying to trace a red car, captured on CCTV, which they believed was used in the abduction.

But despite fresh appeals, the car has still not been traced.

Hoax calls

Other events compounded the family's suffering.

In April 2003, a woman from Gloucestershire was jailed for five months for making hoax phone calls to the family.

The 21-year-old had impersonated Milly in calls to the girl's father, her school and the police.

Then, in May 2005, it emerged that the family had received hate mail from a jailed paedophile, who claimed to have killed the teenager.

Milly Dowler captured on CCTV at Weybridge station on the day she vanished
Milly Dowler was on her way home from school when she went missing

In the months and years following her murder, the family concentrated their efforts on positive action, setting up a charity called Milly's Fund in memory of their daughter.

A safety video was commissioned and provided to schools in the UK and a version of one of Milly's favourite songs, Build Me Up Buttercup, was recorded to raise money for the appeal.

A programme of life skills lessons for teenagers was launched and a nostalgic garden put on display at Hampton Court Flower Show.

In September, it was announced that the charity would close and the 800,000 it had raised was handed over to The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, with which it had been working closely.

Former wheel clamper, Levi Bellfield, was named on Monday as a prime suspect in the murder inquiry, after being found guilty of killing two young women and trying to kill a third.

For the teenager's parents, the torment is still not over.

On Monday, the couple said they had learned to live with the pain of losing their daughter, a bubbly girl who "always had a little twinkle in her eye", and tried not to let the pain and anger overwhelm them.

But they added: "There are times we don't succeed."

Milly Dowler's parents on life without their daughter

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