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Forensic ecologist reveals how solve Milly Dowler case

A forensic ecologist has revealed how she helped solve the Milly Dowler case by identifying the types of leaves and wildlife nearby the remains of her body.

Professor Patricia Wiltshire, who lives in Surrey, has been instrumental in helping police solve several high-profile crimes using the analysis of plants, soil and wildlife at crime scenes. 

She aided the investigation into the murder of 13-year-old Milly, who was killed by Levi Bellfield after being snatched while walking home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey in 2002.

After an extensive search, the teenager’s body was found six months later dumped in a wood 25 miles away in Yateley Heath, Hampshire, and her body was so badly decomposed that a cause of death could not be established.

Patricia was enlisted to help establish a timeline, and was able to identify exactly when her remains were placed there using the leaf litter underneath her skull and the type of animals near her body. 

‘That’s a very complicated case,’ she said during an appearance on ITV’s This Morning today. 

Milly Dowler was killed by Levi Bellfield after being snatched while walking home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey in 2002

Professor Patricia Wiltshire, who lives in Surrey, has been instrumental in helping police solve several high-profile crimes using the analysis of plants, soil and wildlife at crime scenes

Professor Patricia Wiltshire, who lives in Surrey, has been instrumental in helping police solve several high-profile crimes using the analysis of plants, soil and wildlife at crime scenes

‘One of the things they wanted to know was how long had she been there. Her skull was on the ground, I could tell immediately it had been there since day one. 

‘She disappeared in March and this was now September and if you looked underneath, her skull was on last year’s leaf litter. Not only that, all the animals that would normally colonise a body had gone. 

‘She had been there for six months and I was able to tell them. There were other bones as well that could actually give them a timeline. ‘ 

It wasn’t until 2004 that Bellfield was arrested for the murder of 22-year-old French student Amelie Delagrange. He was later convicted of killing Marsha McDonnell, 19, in 2008.  

Serial killer Levi Bellfield (pictured) was found guilty of abducting and killing Milly following a trial at the Old Bailey in 2011 and was jailed for life. He was already serving three life sentences for murder and attempted murder.

The teenager's body was found six months after her murder dumped in a wood 25 miles away in Yateley Heath, Hampshire

Serial killer Levi Bellfield (pictured left) was found guilty of abducting and killing Milly (right) following a trial at the Old Bailey in 2011 and was jailed for life. He was already serving three life sentences for murder and attempted murder 

In 2008, Bellfield was named as the prime suspect in Surrey Police’s investigation into Milly’s murder and was eventually charged with the crime in 2010. 

He was found guilty of abducting and killing Milly following a trial at the Old Bailey in 2011 and was jailed for life. He was already serving three life sentences for murder and attempted murder.

Patricia also acted as a forensic scientist in the Soham murder inquiry, aiding police in the investigation into the killing of 10-year-old’s Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.  

Holly and Jessica went missing from a family barbecue in the Cambridgeshire village on August 4, 2002.

Killer Ian Huntley had lured the girls to his house and murdered them before dumping their bodies in a remote ditch, where they were discovered 13 days later.

‘With the Soham girls the police were very clued up they were ready to go and they out a team of us together so well before the girls were found we all knew what role we would have’, she said.   

Patricia also acted as a forensic scientist in the Soham murder inquiry, aiding police in the investigation into the killing of 10-year-old's Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Killer Ian Kevin Huntley had lured the girls to his house and murdered them before dumping their bodies in a remote ditch, where they were discovered 13 days later.

Patricia also acted as a forensic scientist in the Soham murder inquiry, aiding police in the investigation into the killing of 10-year-old’s Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman (left). Killer Ian Kevin Huntley (right) had lured the girls to his house and murdered them before dumping their bodies in a remote ditch, where they were discovered 13 days later.

‘It’s best for me to be first with the body,’ she said. ‘So I went into the ditch first to do my bit and was sat there for quite a long time, but I realised when I was there what I needed to sample to link Huntley with the place and it was very successful.’ 

Patricia recalled how difficult it was meeting Jessica’s mother while investigating the case: ‘When you go to the home and you see the parents [it’s difficult]’. 

‘I remember in the Soham case going to Jessica’s home and seeing her mother and her dog and her swing in the garden and that hit me hard.’ 

Huntley, who was a caretaker at the local Soham Village College, was arrested after the girls’ bodies were discovered 

During a two-week appeal to find the girls, Huntley gave TV interviews and joined in searches while his then-girlfriend Maxine Carr gave him a false alibi.

He was jailed for life in 2005. Carr was jailed for perverting the course of justice. She was released in 2004 with a new identity. 

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