DCI Colin Sutton on how he brought one of Britain’s most notorious killers to justice

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MANHUNT is the HIT drama everybody is talking about, telling the grisly true story of the murders of three young women.

Last night’s episode, the first of the three-part series, focused on the killing of French student Amélie Delagrange, and tonight’s will show DCI Colin Sutton coming face-to-face with twisted killer Bellfield for the first time.

 Manhunt, starring Martin Clunes, focuses on how killer Levi Bellfield was finally caught

Neil Genower/ITV

Manhunt, starring Martin Clunes, focuses on how killer Levi Bellfield was finally caught

The series is adapted from former Metropolitan police chief Colin’s book, Manhunt, which is published this Thursday.

It tells of his painstaking efforts to piece together the clues to convict Bellfield of the murders of Amélie Delagrange, Marsha McDonnell and Milly Dowler.

Here, former Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, who headed up the case and is played by Martin Clunes in the dramatisation, reveals the truth behind how they caught sick Bellfield.

 Former DCI Colin was the man who spearheaded the murder cases and finally brought Levi Bellfield to justice

Nick Obank – The Sun

Former DCI Colin was the man who spearheaded the murder cases and finally brought Levi Bellfield to justice
Levi Bellfield’s ex says sick killer will be ‘over the moon’ about ITV’s Manhunt drama

His eyes were black as coal

The first time I came face to face with Levi Bellfield, I instantly noticed his eyes. They were black as coal and devoid of expression.

This moment, in the early hours of 22 November 2004, in his housing association home in Little Benty, Middlesex, was the one that would define my life and career and one we’d spent months preparing for.

 Levi Bellfield was described by Colin Sutton as having eyes 'black as coal and devoid of expression'

AP:Associated Press

Levi Bellfield was described by Colin Sutton as having eyes ‘black as coal and devoid of expression’

He was larger than I had imagined, both taller and fatter, with a huge neck.

He seemed to have some sort of tick, blinking and tossing his head nervously every few seconds – I supposed he knew what he had done and what was likely to be coming his way.

The overall impression was of a powerful, frightening man – but this was softened instantly when he spoke in a high-pitched, squeaky voice.

We’d spent the last four months trying to find the killer of French student Amélie Delagrange, who was murdered in August 2004.

The 22-year-old had been battered about the head with a hammer and had been found dying in the middle of Twickenham Green, a very suburban and safe corner of London.

The last time anyone who knew Amélie saw her, she’d crossed the road to a bus stop to wait for any number of buses that would take her the mile or so to Twickenham Green.

 Bellfield had killed Amélie Delagrange on Twickenham Green in August 2004

Handout

Bellfield had killed Amélie Delagrange on Twickenham Green in August 2004

Murderous assaults carried out by a stranger in the street are incredibly rare. But here I quickly realised we had another recent murder in a similar circumstance.

Marsha McDonnell, 19, had died from head wounds in Hampton on 4 February 2003, yards from her home after getting off a bus.

There were also other women in the area who had sustained massive head and face injuries. To me, there was every reason to think that they might be the work of one person, but then I had no baggage from the original Marsha investigation.

 He'd also murdered 19 year old Marsha McDonnell the year before

Handout

He’d also murdered 19 year old Marsha McDonnell the year before

Preying on 13 year old girls at bus stops

We first connected Bellfield to a white van seen on CCTV near Amelie’s murder scene.

In May 2004, 18 year old Kate Sheedy had been deliberately run over by a different white van – but one we found was also linked to Bellfield.

He’d sold the vehicle, with its door mirror smashed, soon after the attack. We placed him under surveillance.

 Kate Sheedy survived being deliberately run over by Bellfield in a white van

Handout

Kate Sheedy survived being deliberately run over by Bellfield in a white van

While looking through his intelligence file, I discovered that in 2002 he was living in Walton-on-Thames, virtually opposite the station, close to where Milly Dowler was abducted.

On the third day of us tailing Bellfield, the surveillance team reported an incident where they caught him speaking with a 13 and 14-year-old girl at a bus stop.

When police spoke to the girls, they said he’d come up to them saying: “You look like virgins. I like virgins” – but their bus arrived in time for them to make an escape.

 Bouncer Bellfield had been preying on teenage girls and young women at bus stops for a long time

Rex Features

Bouncer Bellfield had been preying on teenage girls and young women at bus stops for a long time

The fact that he seemed to view bus stops as a hunting ground gave a potential link to both Amélie’s murder and Kate’s attack. He was looking ever more a good suspect and I was becoming convinced we were on to something.

It was time to arrest this man – a person who we would later learn had an appalling catalogue of domestic abuse, including several rapes, as well as previous arrests for car theft and burglary.

Bellfield had been hiding naked in his loft

However, Bellfield’s arrest initially came close to unravelling when he did not appear to be at his home.

A couple of hours were spent in fruitless searching until my colleague Detective Sergeant Norman Griffiths rang me again, saying: “Guvnor, he’s been here all along. He’s in the loft.”

He’d been hiding naked in his loft under a fibreglass insulation blanket.

 Bellfield initially tried to hide naked in his loft to evade arrest for his sick crimes

Rex Features

Bellfield initially tried to hide naked in his loft to evade arrest for his sick crimes

I arrived at his home shortly afterwards. Bellfield had been allowed to get dressed and was scratching all over his body – or at least as much as a handcuffed man could – the effects of lying under the fibreglass.

We did though allow him a shower but not until 23 hours later.

I am so glad that in the last few minutes of freedom he would enjoy in his entire life, he was not only very uncomfortable but also utterly devoid of dignity. It is still much better than he deserved.

Colin has written a book about his experience cracking the case

He tried to hang himself with his head down the toilet

At Heathrow Police Station, Bellfield was placed in a cell.

Searching officers had failed to spot that the elasticated tracksuit bottoms he was wearing had a tape around the waistband.

 Manhunt is a three-part series examining how police were finally able to snare Bellfield

ITV

Manhunt is a three-part series examining how police were finally able to snare Bellfield
 Bellfield is played by Celyn Jones in the ITV drama

© Neil Genower/ITV

Bellfield is played by Celyn Jones in the ITV drama

Bellfield took this from the tracksuit, put that round his neck and tied it on to the fixture for the flush in an attempt to hang himself with his head down the toilet.

He inserted his large head as far into the toilet as he could, but but when he decided the attempt wasn’t going to work, began to shout.

 Bellfield being interviewed by police during the case

Handout

Bellfield being interviewed by police during the case

Keeping quiet for fear of violence at the hands of Bellfield

While Bellfield was being questioned at the station, we were speaking to Emma Mills, his partner and the mother of three of his 11 children.

She recalled something significant on the night Milly Dowler went missing – he’d taken Emma’s red Daewoo car while the couple were dog sitting at a friend’s house, leaving in the early hours of the morning and not returning until 11pm.

 Bellfield's former partner Emma Mills also provided crucial evidence against him

PA:Press Association

Bellfield’s former partner Emma Mills also provided crucial evidence against him

The next day, when they drove to their flat, Emma noticed all the bedding had been removed from their bed.

His explanation was that his dog had used the bed as a toilet, and he’d thrown it in the bin.

Despite the fact there was no bedding in the bin, Emma didn’t question it – she assumed he’d soiled the bed while entertaining another woman and kept quiet for fear of violent reprisals.

At first we couldn’t link Bellfield to Milly Dowler

After his arrest, the national press suggested the attacks could be linked to the case of Milly Dowler who was abducted from Walton-on-Thames, six miles away, and killed in March 2002. We found this mystifying.

The crime was startlingly different in its nature, in the victim’s age and in the way she died. Such a link had never crossed our minds, and we felt that the speculation could only be unhelpful, so it was swiftly put down.

 At first, the Met didn't think the killings were linked to that of Milly Dowler (pictured) in 2002

PA:Press Association

At first, the Met didn’t think the killings were linked to that of Milly Dowler (pictured) in 2002

We had no clear picture of what happened until we found Amélie’s phone, taken by her killer, had connected itself to T Mobile’s network in Walton-on-Thames, where he was living, 20 minutes after her attack.

The murderer would have had to travel there by vehicle. Weeks later, cameras from buses had identified a small white Ford Courier van parked on Twickenham Green at the same time she’d been attacked.

And further CCTV showed it had been cruising around the area, possibly searching for a victim.

 Bellfields ex Johanna Collings was the first person to give Bellfield's to the police

Oliver Dixon – The Sun

Bellfields ex Johanna Collings was the first person to give Bellfield’s to the police

A further breakthrough came when a woman named Johanna Collings suggested her ex-partner, Levi Bellfield, could be the killer.

In one of his old coats, she’d found a knife, balaclava and copy of Cosmopolitan magazine where the blonde women inside had their faces stabbed.

Interestingly, we also found out Bellfield had also once owned a Ford Courier.

Surrey Police ignored findings for six months

I took the information Emma provided to Surrey police, who were investigating the murder of Milly Dowler under Operation Ruby.

I had given them, I thought, a good suspect to look at by highlighting Bellfield’s character, his known activities and where he lived on the day Milly was abducted.

Yet it had been six months and I had heard virtually nothing back.

 Colin says Surrey Police initially ignored his findings on Bellfield

PA:Press Association

Colin says Surrey Police initially ignored his findings on Bellfield

After arranging a meeting with them to talk to them about Emma’s suspicions, I asked if they had any CCTV pictures of her Daewoo that day.

They showed me a picture of a car matching hers, taken about 20 minutes after Milly was known to have disappeared.

This was huge: it was the only one of that colour and the only person with keys was Bellfield – but Surrey Police had no more CCTV footage.

 Bellfield had attempted to abduct an 11 year old girl the day before he killed Milly Dowler

Rex Features

Bellfield had attempted to abduct an 11 year old girl the day before he killed Milly Dowler

Another staggering fact then came to light: 11-year-old, Rachel Cowles, came forward to tell police she’d been approached by a man a mile away in Shepperton, who was driving a red hatchback, the day before Milly disappeared.

She described him as fat, with short dark hair and a squeaky voice – a description that matched Bellfield.

After Bellfield’s arrest, he could only be kept in custody due to charges of assault and rapes he’d committed against three former partners.

It was only in March 2006, once we had all the evidence, that I could charge Bellfield with Amélie’s murder and Kate Sheedy’s attempted murder.

When I read his charges, he looked at me with hatred but I knew he realised he’d finally lost.

Extracted from Manhunt: How I Brought Serial Killer Levi Bellfield To Justice, by Colin Sutton, £8.99, John Blake





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