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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 September, 2003, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
'Positive' steps for Milly's parents
by Laura Smith-Spark
BBC News Online

Milly Dowler and her mother Sally
Milly Dowler disappeared on her way home from school in March 2002
The parents of Milly Dowler have spoken of their determination to turn her death into "something positive" - a year to the day after her body was found.

Bob and Sally Dowler say they hope a safety charity set up in their daughter's memory will help save the lives of other youngsters.

Over the summer holidays, copies of a personal safety video called Watch Over Me have been sent to every secondary school in the country.

And at those 7,000 schools, hundreds of thousands of teenagers will watch the film aimed at helping children to stay away from potential dangers.

Bob and I were determined to turn the terrible tragedy which affected our family into something positive
Sally Dowler, Milly's mother
The film was made with the proceeds of Milly's Fund - a charity set up in memory of 13-year-old Amanda Dowler, known as Milly, who disappeared in March last year as she walked home from school in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey.

Since her remains were discovered in Yateley Heath Woods in Hampshire on 20 September last year, Mr and Mrs Dowler have put all their energies into the project.

Mrs Dowler told BBC News Online: "Bob and I were determined to turn the terrible tragedy which affected our family into something positive, in order to help teenagers such as Milly.

"She was a very sensible girl and we realised if such a thing could happen to her, then many other young people needed help and guidance on how to cope with the experiences every teenager faces.

'Humour and fun'

"We decided the best approach was through schools but we didn't want to produce another worthy book on the subject of personal safety."

Instead the Dowlers, who have another daughter, Gemma, decided to commission a team to put together a series of lively, realistic dramas showing teenagers faced with everyday pressures.

"It's no good telling teenagers don't do this and don't do that," Mr Dowler said.

"They rarely respond to negative commands."

Watch Over Me video
The five-part soap opera features interviews with actors and teenagers

"There is a lot of humour and fun there too," said Mrs Dowler.

"We went to great lengths to research the scenarios used in the drama - speaking to thousands of pupils at schools across England and Wales.

"What we found was that many young people think things will never happen to them...just other people."

First screened in front of the House of Commons in June, the five-part soap opera features testimonies from teenagers and celebrities about the risks they have faced in their own lives.

Forensic work

Among those to appear are television presenters Ant and Dec, Cat Deeley and Davina McCall, as well as Chris Tarrant, the patron of Milly's Fund.

Milly's parents hope the video, which was paid for by 100,000 from the fund and 75,000 each from the Home Office and Department for Education and Skills, may prevent other young lives being cut short.

Their daughter's funeral was held a year to the day after she vanished.

Milly Dowler (left) with parents Bob and Sally and sister Gemma
Mrs Dowler said she hoped the family's tragedy would help others

Meanwhile despite intensive police investigations - and a reward of 50,000 put up by Surrey Police and Crimewatch - the murder remains unsolved.

A team of about 40 detectives involved in the Operation Ruby inquiry continues to sift through evidence in a major incident room in Guildford.

Officers believe a key piece of the puzzle could be the clothes and possessions Milly had with her when she disappeared.

None of Milly's school uniform nor her school bag and its contents have ever been found.

A Surrey Police spokeswoman said: "There is still some forensic work going on, also things like looking at the names of people mentioned to us by other forces of potential interest to the inquiry.

"There's also information given to us by members of the public - various sightings or individuals mentioned and names given to us.

"Officers are going through witness accounts and trying to eliminate those people who may have been there at the time."

Favourite Milly tune recorded
28 Jul 03  |  Southern Counties
Milly charity releases safety film
18 Jun 03  |  Southern Counties
No match to Milly DNA
10 Feb 03  |  England
Milly's body found
21 Sep 02  |  England
Sad end to agonising six months
20 Sep 02  |  UK News

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