Manhunt: The true story behind the hit TV drama about Levi Bellfield and the murder of Milly Dowler Paperback – 10 Jan 2019
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The true story behind TV drama Manhunt - the detective who solved the Milly Dowler case and finally brought serial killer Levi Bellfield to justice.
From the Author
Colin Sutton was a Senior Investigating Officer in the Metropolitan Police from January 2003 to January 2011, leading more than thirty successful murder investigations, notably the Levi Bellfield case and the successful re-investigation of the seventeen-year reign of terror of the 'Nightstalker' Delroy Grant.See all Product description
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This book is a warts and all honest account of the investigation and gives a view of the investigations failings - the non viewing of CCTV which had it occurred might have prevented the Amélie Delagrange murder, as well as the failure of Surrey police to make anything of the Red Daewoo car seen exiting from a premises near Walton station where Milly Dowler is believed to have been killed by Bellfield, which could have prevented Marsha McDonnell and Amélie Delagrange’s subsequent murders. Overwhelmingly however DCI Sutton is to be commended on his service to this investigation and you really get the feel of the effort that goes into an investigation of this size, the man hours, and the attention to detail that is called for. Also that these people must live with this investigation and worry for so long, which makes you feel the very best police officers should be paid more. I thought the circumstantial evidence portrayed that convicted Bellfield of the Amélie Delagrange murder was very interesting in that someone could be placed in a location by phone and CCTV evidence, where the evidence to do so wasn’t simply ascertained.
On the downside I did find the honesty of DCI Sutton to be eye opening, to the extent it may not show him or the police generally in the best possible light all of the time. Maybe this was a bit naive on his part but perhaps he did so as he is no longer a police officer and wanted to show the police attitudes and processes as they really are. The reference to calling him ‘Guvnor’ in a modern police force? Also for instance his tormenting reference to putting a slideshow of pictures of the victims on his laptop because he perceived Bellfield to be looking at his laptop screen over his shoulder in court. I thought that showed an officer stooping to Bellfield’s level, and maybe this isn’t something to be proud of - the police are there to uphold the law and no more than that after all. Being more generous and in all fairness I did think possibly DCI Sutton may have wanted to show a warts and all approach to show what the police was really like, as I say.
There was the reference to Bellfield’s small item of anatomy shall I say, when having naked photographs taken of his tattoos. I also couldn’t help wonder about reasons for the police’s professional standard department ignoring DCI Sutton’s self report complaint of the CCTV not being reviewed (which could potentially have prevented the Amélie murder). Also when officers refer reports of gang rapes and nothing happening further, you can’t help think of the failure of our authorities to deal with grooming gangs due to race issues, taken as high up politicised decisions. So in these senses the book does hint to more underhand undertones of the police force including issues which far from paint a gleaming impression of the police.
Because of the propensity of Bellfield’s crimes more should be made in investigative journalism to try and uncover his potential role in other murders, which no doubt has happened. Maybe due to DCI Sutton’s excellent work, he should take the forefront in this with some further books and TV programmes. The Chillenden Michael Stone case is screaming out as a miscarriage of justice and the evidence of Bellfield being involved - his beige Escort car borrowed from a girlfriend and his striking resemblance to an e-fit from Josie Russell, is a coincidence that is too far removed for me.
The book reads rather like a transcription of something that Colin Sutton might have dictated and then tidied up later, rather than a well-constructed detective story. That’s an observation of fact, not a criticism. There are a few things that bother me now that I’ve read it and seen the miniseries.
First of all, Sutton makes a dig at the size of Belfield’s genitalia when strip-searched, but whatever the size, Bellfield appears to have fathered 11 children and I imagine that very few of the rest of us have. I suppose that means that size doesn’t matter much. It also means that Bellfield’s DNA is contaminating the gene pool even though the man is safely locked away. Personally, given his convictions for a series of truly wicked crimes I’m rather aghast as a taxpayer to be being told that he must be supported, fed and clothed at public expense. Justice is not served in the way that an execution would.
Justice is also not served by the way that several elements of prosecution had to be abandoned because of the behaviour of the media. Given that there was a deal with the News of the World to have a reporter present at Bellfield’s arrest, and the News of the World’s reporters were implicated in the Millie Dowler phone hacking, perhaps one shouldn’t be surprised that the Surrey Police were not Sutton’s best friends.
The book itself also makes one worried about the behaviour of the police. Inevitably, in hindsight, one can see where mistakes were made. Like it or not, they were inevitable. It hadn’t crossed my mind though, that the police manipulated overtime payments on a big scale. Frankly I didn’t believe Sutton’s protestations that he was in it to catch the bad guys when he left the police after only 30 years’ service on a full pension. Police pensions are pretty good, and I for one would fully support the idea that a frontline copper who has to chase over fences and get into physical situations with violent criminals is probably over the top at 50 and deserves a great pension, but Sutton, a graduate with what is basically an office job with the occasional site visit, could easily make use of hard earned skills well into his 60s.
The final thing that makes me worry about the police isn’t Sutton’s grievance at the hands of Sir Ian Blair, but his suggestion that Bellfield had some sort of guardian/accomplice in the Met. If that doesn’t worry every viewer and reader, then perhaps it should. Do we have a copper on the make, or one being blackmailed? Frankly, the police could use some of their time usefully catching the rotten apples. Maybe Sutton could come out of retirement and do it. Then Bellfield could share a cell with his chum, and justice would be served. Colin Sutton could then write the sequel!
Although the content is fascinating in parts, it takes a while to get going, and I nearly gave up. I'd advise you to just skip to chapter four if, like me, you have a short attention span. All of the start could have been cut, and so could the police reports and transcripts - even if the author may have felt these needed to have been preserved for posterity.
The details around how the cases against Levi Bellfield were constructed and tried are really interesting, but much of the SIO work seems for the most part quite dull - involving meetings, policy decisions, staffing and office space issues. I would have been more interested to read the author's tips from a management point of view. How did he get a team of seventy officers working together as one well-oiled machine? Perhaps that's something he will look at in the future. He clearly has a special knack of getting people to pull together under his command.
In summary - this book is a curate's egg. Flashes of brilliance amongst a sea of grey. I would assume, much like the police work that went into catching and trying the accused.