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The tragic murder of thirteen year old Milly Dowler is a case that I have followed right from the beginning. In 2002 she disappeared from Walton on Thames in Surrey, an area I know well. She attended a school which some of my cousins and friends also attended. She was only a year younger than me. For years I followed the story in the papers. I also remember the murders of Marsha McDonnell in Hampton and Amelie Delagrange in Twickenham, again areas I am familiar with. I followed these cases in the news until a man named Levi Bellfield was convicted of ending the lives of these young girls. Immediately after the trial the book 'The Bus Stop Killer' by Geoffrey Wansell was released. My sister had also followed these cases and lent me the book after she had read it.
- Background -
In 2008 Levi Bellfield was convicted of murdering Amelie Delagrange and Marsha McDonnel and was also convicted of the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy. In 2011 he was found guilty of the murder of Milly Dowler. He is also suspected of being involved in many other attacks on young women. Bellfield had no connection to his victims. He often followed these girls in his car as they got off buses late at night before bludgeoning them with a heavy implement. It is this connection to buses and bus stops that gave him the name 'the bus stop killer'.
- Focus -
This book focuses on the life of Levi Bellfield so as well detailing what happened to the victims there is a lot of information about his childhood, relationships and work as a nightclub bouncer and a car clamper. This is interesting and helps build a picture of what lead him to commit these horrific crimes. However, I think the cover of the book is a little misleading as it mostly talks about Milly Dowler and doesn't mention the other victim's names. Milly Dowler's name is prominent on the front cover and her story is briefly told on the back while the only mention of the other victims is with the words 'another young woman'. Perhaps this was a selling strategy as most people know about Milly Dowler and perhaps wouldn't have heard of the other victims. It seems to me like the tragic murder of Milly is being sensationalised. Given the nature of Bellfields's crimes this book contains accounts of violence.
- Order of Events -
Having read quite a few true crime books I would say that usually events are told in chronological order. Therefore I expected this book to start with the details of Levi Bellfield's childhood. However chapter one is about his arrest in 2004. Chapter two goes on to discuss his questioning and also information gleaned from his girlfriend at the time. These accounts are incomplete so it doesn't quite make sense and the reader has little understanding of how events have lead to this point. It just seems like a strange place to start but perhaps it would work if it was well written, which unfortunately it isn't. Finally chapter three starts to delve into the character of Bellfield, but not before a tedious three or so pages about gypsy culture, which is only marginally relevant. From then on the book does follow a chronological order more or less. But there are references to parts of the case not yet discussed which I found were not explained clearly enough to make sense. I knew a lot more than many about this case before reading this book and I was still left confused at times.
- Dun Dun Duuun -
I found the authors style of writing to be quite irritating and badly chosen. In my opinion I felt he dramatised the events rather than simply discussing the facts. This seemed inappropriate given the subject matter and made it hard for me to read. In parts it felt more like fiction than real life events. This isn't necessary with books of this nature and I don't usually feel this way when I read true crime.
- Spelling mistakes -
This book was littered with so many spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and sentences that simply don't make sense that it really is laughable. It really is very poorly written which is something I really can't stand in a book. I think this is partly because publishing of the book was rushed to be released after the Milly Dowler trial while it was still fresh in people's minds.
- New information -
There were quite a few things I learnt from reading this book, particularly detailed facts about the attacks and murders as well as information about the killer. This was good as I wasn't sure the book would tell me anything new as I had followed the news reports closely. What I found helpful was gaining an overall understanding of what happened when and in what order, which I did just about get from this book. This is what I had hoped to learn from reading this book. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that we will ever find out the exact details of Bellfield's crimes and other possible victims as he is unwilling to cooperate with the police. Sadly it is the families of the victims who suffer because of this.
- Photos -
There are eight pages of photos in the centre of the book including photos of the victims, their families and the killer. These are interesting and make a good point of reference while reading the book.
- Other Details -
Published by Penguin in 2011
Available in paperback or eBook
- Price and Availability -
The RRP of this book is £6.99. It is available from Waterstones, and Amazon as well as most good book shops.
- Would I Recommend? -
I would recommend this book if you are simply looking to learn a little more about the tragic murders of these young women and the killer Levi Bellfield. However, the book is dramatised, poorly written and I really disliked the style of writing. It is a shame this book was so rushed as I would have preferred to wait to read a book that was of a higher quality.