At a time when some people feel their civil liberties
In a BBC programme about the conviction of Levi Bellfield for the murders of Millie Dowler, Amelie Delagrange and Marsha McDonnell, the crucial role of the local CCTV systems was revealed.
There was so very little forensic evidence available to the officers investigating these crimes that they turned increasingly to the footage from cameras in the area to provide physical proof of their suspicions.
Unfortunately, in the case of Millie, earlier rain had left drops on the lens and subsequent sunshine caused impediments to the footage of the rotating security cameras outside the Birds Eye building in Station Road, Walton on Thames. This mean that the film had to be sent to experts at the FBI in the States to help to interpret the images, but there was still no sign of Millie and the investigation of her murder dragged on for over eight years before a charge was brought.
It was CCTV cameras that were responsible for implicating the man eventually convicted of her murder in the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy, who was repeatedly run over by Bellfield as she crossed the road on the way home from a night out. Amazingly, she survived the attack and was able to give a detailed description of the car responsible. A white people carrier with blacked out windows and a broken wing mirror. With these details, the police were able to scour the footage of the area and identify the vehicle. With the registration of the car, they were able to track down the owner and bring him in for questioning.
By looking at footage from the areas around where the murders of Amelie and Marsha took place, they were also able to pick out vehicles which appeared to be targeting women on their own - all of which could also be traced back to Bellfield and he was convicted of both their murders.
For Millie Dowler, there was no such evidence - just the fact that she had been seen by her sister's friend, walking away from Walton railway station along Station Road but was not picked up on any of the cctv cameras. What was picked up, however, was a red car of the same make as one that Bellfield's partner said he had owned at that time. It was travelling along Station Road at 4.33, less than 20 minutes after Millie was last seen. The car itself was never found but the proof that Bellfield had actually been in the area was damning.
Especially when a Forensic Imagery expert examined the video footage again and was able to completely rule out the fact that Millie had ever walked past the cameras. There had always been concern that the rotation of the cameras on the Birds Eye building could have left blind spots during which Millie could have walked past. Andy Lawes was able to confirm that the only way the cameras could have missed her was if she had been dodging between trees, passing cars and lamp posts at moments exactly coinciding with the times that the cameras were pointing in the other direction.
This meant that they were able to narrow down the area of Millie's disappearance to a short stretch of Station Avenue between the bus stop where she had last been seen and the position of the first security camera. The area on the other side of the road from the cameras is lined with dense hedgerow, apart from one small alley that led to Collingwood Place, where Bellfield lived. It is believed that Millie crossed the road for some reason to where he was waiting in the bushes.
The Crown Prosecution Service finally had enough evidence to prosecute and Bellfield was also convicted and jailed for Millie's murder.