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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 12:34 GMT
Bellfield given 'whole life' term
Levi Bellfield

A man who murdered two young women and tried to kill a third has been given a "whole life" sentence.

Levi Bellfield, 39, from west London, bludgeoned Amelie Delagrange, 22, and Marsha McDonnell, 19, after they got off buses in south-west London.

He was also found guilty of trying to kill Kate Sheedy, then 18, in 2004 and has been named as a prime suspect in the 2002 murder of Milly Dowler, 13.

Bellfield refused to attend sentencing because of "overnight bad publicity".

'Web of deceit'

Police, Miss Sheedy and the families of Miss McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange all condemned Bellfield as a coward for refusing to go to court.

Sentencing Bellfield at the Old Bailey on Tuesday in his absence, Mrs Justice Rafferty said: "You have reduced three families to unimagined grief.

"What dreadful feelings went through your head as you attacked and, in two cases, snuffed out a young life is beyond understanding."

Explaining her sentencing she said: "Aggravating features are the chronicle of violence directed towards lone vulnerable young women during the hours of darkness and substantial premeditation and planning."

The judge also praised Det Ch Insp Colin Sutton, who led the case, for seeing through Bellfield's "web of deceit".

Milly Dowler

"This case has depended on thousands of hours of unglamorous, painstaking work by officers who took their lead from you," she said.

Bellfield is the second person in the UK to be handed a "whole life" term in four days.

Steve Wright, who killed five women in Suffolk at the end of 2006, was given the same sentence at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday.

The Old Bailey heard that Bellfield had refused to attend his sentencing because of a "welter of accusations" that he was behind other unsolved crimes.

His barrister, William Boyce QC told the judge: "Overnight there has been what some consider to be a quite extraordinary explosion of bad publicity."

Blunt instrument

The wheel clamper from West Drayton carried out attacks on the three students in 2003 and 2004.

Police suspect him of carrying out 20 other attacks on women, including date rapes.

He is also the main suspect in the murder of Milly Dowler, who went missing on her way home from school in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey on 21 March 2002.

They were cowardly attacks, cowardly crimes he had been sentenced for and his cowardice carried through to this morning, he couldn't even face it
Det Ch Insp Colin Sutton

Her body was found in Yateley Heath, Hampshire, six months later.

Miss McDonnell was hit three times on the head with a hammer just yards from her front door after she got off a bus in February 2003.

In a similar attack in August 2004, Miss Delagrange was hit on the head with a blunt instrument on Twickenham Green while she was walking home after missing her bus.

Miss Sheedy, who is now 21, suffered a broken collarbone, a punctured lung and other internal injuries when Bellfield drove his people carrier into her and reversed back over her in May 2004.

Open wound

In an impact statement Dominique Delagrange described the pain of losing her daughter Amelie.

She said: "Her loss is an open wound that will never heal. We shall never get over it."

Miss McDonnell's uncle, Shane, said: "Marsha's murder was an act of pure evil, an innocent girl attacked from behind with no motive, no reason and no justification."

Marsha McDonnell (l) and Amelie Delagrange
The two young murder victims were followed after getting off buses

Meanwhile, Miss Sheedy said: "To this day I still suffer from nightmares."

At Bellfield's trial the jury of seven women and five men were unable to reach verdicts on two other charges.

These were the kidnap and false imprisonment of Anna-Maria Rennie, 17, and the attempted murder of hairdresser Irma Dragoshi, 33.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it would not seek a retrial on the two counts.

Speaking after the sentencing Det Ch Insp Sutton said he was disappointed Bellfield did not go to court.

"They were cowardly attacks, cowardly crimes he had been sentenced for and his cowardice carried through to this morning, he couldn't even face it."

Outside court, Miss Sheedy and the families of Miss McDonnell and Miss Delagrange, who attended the sentencing, all agreed Bellfield was a coward and welcomed his whole life term.

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