Sally Anne Bowman

Crime Files

World at her feet

"A bright star in ascendance has been extinguished by one man's evil intent."Reverend Stephen CoeBBC News Online, November 2005

Sally Anne Bowman is born to Paul and Linda on 11 September 1987 in Carshalton. She’s the youngest of four with three older sisters Nicole, Michelle and Danielle. Living in the London suburb of Croydon, Sally Anne is a born performer. She loves nothing more than singing, dancing and entertaining. As a teenager she joins the Croydon-based Brit School for Performing Arts whose former pupils have included Amy Winehouse and Katie Melua. Only recently she recorded herself singing the Celine Dion classic ‘My Heart Will Go On’. She frequently performs karaoke at the local pub, singing away to the delight of family and friends. Sally Anne is the complete package with the looks, the voice and the acting talent which could make her a success.

Working part-time as a hairdresser and model, she’s recently won a competition as the face of Swatch watches. She’s also caught the attention of a leading model agency who wants to sign her up. Her dreams of being on the front cover of Vogue may not be as far away as she thinks.

24/25 September 2005It’s Saturday evening and having had a busy day working at the hair salon, Sally Anne is now at her mum’s house relaxing. Having turned 18 less than two weeks ago, she’s still in the mood to celebrate and is getting ready for a girls’ night out in Croydon. At 6.05pm her sister arrives to pick her up and as she leaves her mum’s flat, she waves goodbye and thanks her for letting her stay, saying a final ‘love you Mum’.

Sally Anne’s boyfriend Lewis Sproston is also out that night partying in Kingston-upon-Thames, with his friends. They have an on/off relationship and both find it difficult to trust each other. Sally Anne is convinced that Lewis is out with other girls. And Lewis is certain Sally Anne will be out flirting with boys. Winding each other up, they spend Saturday night on their mobile phones texting, calling and bickering. It’s a typical teenage romance.

At 10pm inside Lloyds Bar Sally Anne meets her sister Nicole. They spend the rest of the night dancing. By 1am Sally Anne has returned to a friend’s home, and by 2.30am she decides to see Lewis and asks to be picked up from Croydon town centre to be taken back to her flat. Annoyed at being asked, Lewis reluctantly drives over. Angry with Sally Anne, they argue on the way home and spend almost two hours bickering in the car outside her flat in Blenheim Crescent, South Croydon. It’s during this argument that Lewis believes he sees a man looking into the car. Eventually Lewis loses his patience and leaves Sally Anne just outside her house. He sees her walking towards her home and deciding she will be safe, he drives off. What happens next will haunt Lewis for the rest of his life.

At 4.15am, barely 10 yards from her front door, Sally Anne is brutally attacked. Her assailant is armed with a knife and stabs her seven times. Her screams are heard by a couple of neighbours at 4.20am. Hesitating, the murderer waits in the bushes for any lights to come on. When they don’t, he continues. The attacker violently rapes her, savagely biting her.

As he disappears into the night, he takes with him some of her clothes, handbag and mobile phone. These will be his trophies.

At 6.30am a neighbour who heard the screams finds Sally Anne’s body in a pool of blood.

Timeline

11 September 2005Sally Anne Bowman turns 18 years old

24 September 2005Mark Dixie celebrates his 35th birthday

25 September 2005Sally Anne Bowman is brutally murdered and raped

4 November 2005Funeral of Sally Anne Bowman takes place at Croydon Crematorium

27 Feb 2006DNA screening begins – 771 men volunteer and are eliminated from police enquiries

15 June 2006Mark Dixie arrested for a minor pub scuffle during England match

28 June 2006Mark Dixie arrested over Sally Anne’s murder

4 February 2008Mark Dixie stands trial at the Old Bailey

22 February 2008Mark Dixie sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 34 years

The Aftermath

Aftershock

THE BOWMAN FAMILY"My heart will never mend not even over time. I cannot understand why my baby girl was taken from me in such a brutal and depraved way.”Linda BowmanBBC News Online February 2008Since the murder of her youngest daughter Linda Bowman has written several times to the authorities to grant her request to sit face-to-face with Mark Dixie. She has questions she wants answered; particularly she wants to find out where he hid her daughter’s personal effects. Keeping her memory alive the family visit Sally Anne’s grave every year on her birthday.

DNA DATABASE"It is my opinion that a national DNA register - with all its appropriate safeguards - could have identified Sally Anne's murderer within 24 hours.”Detective Superintendent Stuart CundyBBC News Online February 2008The Bowman family have campaigned for the government to introduce a compulsory DNA database which would take DNA from birth. Although highly controversial, they believe it would stop miscarriages of justice and help catch serious offenders. Had it not been for Mark Dixie being arrested for a pub fight then there’s every chance he may never have been caught.MARK DIXIE“Dixie is a coward who preys on vulnerable women and attacks them, sexually and physically. He is not well liked, especially among his fellow prisoners.”Prison Officer, HMP Long LartinCroydon Guardian, November 2009After being sentenced Mark Dixie was sent to Belmarsh prison in London. However the inmates there took an instant dislike to him and threatened to maim him. Fears for his safety had him moved to HMP Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire. Dixie remains concerned that someone could get to him, especially when it was revealed in 2009 that there is a contract of £50,000 for his death. Dixie now lives in fear of being stabbed or beaten to death. 

The Trial

standing trial

On the 4 February 2008 the trial starts at the Old Bailey. Dixie has previously entered a plea of ‘not guilty’ to the surprise of everyone concerned. There is compelling evidence that strongly suggests this is a lie. Forensic scientist Julie-Ann Cornelius informs the jury that there is a billion to one chance that the DNA found on Sally Anne’s body is not from Dixie. What do the defence team have up their sleeve?Sensationally, Dixie stands up in court to deny murder and explain his plea. He tells the jury that he came across Sally Anne’s body but thought she had passed out. Deciding to rape her, it was only after he bit her cheek and she didn’t respond that he realised she was dead.

The prosecution team is forced to call to the witness stand two of Dixie’s previous victims. They need the jury to understand just how barbaric this man is. Not only for the attacks he carried out, but also for forcing them to relive their horrific ordeals. Police believe that this is probably why Dixie entered his not guilty plea. Members of the Bowman family present at the trial are disgusted by what they hear and at one point Linda Bowman leaves the courtroom in floods of tears.It takes three hours for the jury to find Dixie guilty. He responds by shaking his head. In sentencing him to life imprisonment, Judge Gerald Gordon recommends he serves at least 34 years in prison. He’s so repulsed by the crime that he refuses to even repeat it. He’s also disturbed by Dixie’s conduct because he’s not shown the slightest remorse for his actions.

The Investigation

Investigation

Knowing the police have found their man, they need to build a watertight case to ensure this crazed killer is taken off the streets. They begin to investigate his past. Mark Phillip Dixie was born on 24 September 1970 in Streatham, London. At 18 months old, his parents separated and aged eight his mother remarried. He starts using cannabis from 14 and not long after this at 16, his criminal record begins. In 1986 his first crime is to rob a woman in Stockwell. He puts a knife to her throat, demands money and gropes her. He’s sentenced to six weeks detention. Aged 17, and after the birth of his stillborn son, he attacks a Jehovah's Witness, hitting her in the face he then attempts to rape her. Police uncover that Dixie has been apprehended for burglary, robbery, indecent assault and exposure over a seven year period. During the early 90’s his trail goes cold in the UK. It becomes clear to police that he’s a very dangerous man. What they don’t yet realise is how prolific Dixie has been, not only in Britain, but across the world.

AUSTRALIAIn 1993 he moves with his partner Sandra Beckhaus to Australia. They have two children. In 1996 the Claremont serial killer strikes in which three young women, all blonde, are murdered. One girl has her handbag stolen and another is bitten. Dixie is linked to the case, as it holds several similarities with Sally Anne’s murder. However the authorities clear him of any involvement. In 1998, a young Thai student living in Perth is stabbed eight times by a brutal monster that breaks into her home. Convinced she is dying he rapes her leaving a vital DNA sample that will later confirm his identity as Mark Dixie. He’s finally deported from Australia due to another sex crime, where yet again he indecently exposes himself to a female jogger and asks her to perform a sex act. Regrettably, offences in Australia are not passed on to the British authorities.

CROYDONBy 2003 Dixie is back in Croydon, with Stacey Nivet and their baby son, after living in Spain for a short time. They move into 36 Blenheim Crescent and remain there until 2004. Police discover that Stacey has a strained and stormy relationship with Dixie. His habitual drug taking is spiralling out of control, which leaves him very moody and aggressive. Arguing constantly Stacey finds he gets extremely angry at the slightest thing. She recalls that while high on drugs Dixie would bite her on the neck after rough sex. On 1 September 2005, Stacey has enough and leaves him.BIRTHDAYDixie celebrates his 35th birthday with friends. Hoping this may be his chance to patch things up with Stacey he asks her to join the party. When she refuses he’s furious. He continues his drink and drugs binge. His friends comment that despite usually being the life and soul of the party, this episode has aggravated him and brought on a mood swing. The next day he murders Sally Anne Bowman.

The Arrest

The Suspects

The police team, led by Detective Superintendent Stuart Cundy, launches a murder investigation. It is one of the largest ever undertaken by the Metropolitan Police Service. As they make their enquiries, one person starts to stand out as the potential killer. It’s Lewis Sproston, Sally Anne’s boyfriend and the last person to see her alive. He’s arrested on the Sunday afternoon. When questioned, he appears to confirm his guilt when he utters “is this about last night?” The police believe they have got their man. Crucially DNA from the killer is recovered from Sally Anne’s body. All they need to do is match the sample to Lewis. Swab tests are taken and processed, but there is no match and Sally Anne's innocent boyfriend is released.

It emerges that the killer may have been responsible for an earlier attack on Sanderstead Road, just 40 yards from the murder scene. At around 3.30am a woman pulls over to use her phone. Having no signal she gets out of her car. As a man approaches, she sees a knife and holds out her handbag as she believes she’s being robbed. After saying ‘sorry’, her attacker beats her over the head with a blunt instrument. She’s only saved when a passing taxi scares him off. After she’s given first aid, she realises that she’s been bitten. She provides the police with their first e-fit of the killer, but it provides no leads in solving the case. Progress is eventually made when the police cross-reference the killer’s DNA sample and find it matches another crime committed in 2001. In that case, a young woman from Purley was making a call from a telephone box when a man exposed himself to her. He then performed an indecent act and disturbingly tried to get inside the telephone box. The perpetrator was never caught. However the victim got a good look at his face. So four years on, and six months after the murder, the police release his e-fit to the media explaining the two cases are linked. They believe a further six sex attacks in the area may also be linked to Sally Anne’s murder. But despite three Crimewatch appeals, two e-fits, a £40,000 reward and the killer’s DNA and fingerprint, the police still don’t have any answers. They resort to drastic measures when on 27 February 2006 they urge 4,000 men in the local area to take part in a DNA screening procedure which will help eliminate them from their enquiries. Unbeknown to the police, the murderer is back in Croydon and one of his friends asks whether he’ll be taking part in the DNA screening. Without warning, he gets very aggressive, asking whether his friend thinks he’s the murderer. During the next couple of days he moves abroad to Amsterdam. The DNA screening fails to find the killer and the police are fast running out of options to help solve the case.

THE BREAKTHROUGHThe breakthrough comes on 15 June 2006. England is playing Trinidad and Tobago in the FIFA World Cup and win the match. Mark Dixie, 35, is watching the game at his local pub with friends when an innocent man spills his pint over him. Erupting into a violent outburst, he gets the man outside, where in full view of two Police Support Officers, he pushes him. This fatal error sees him arrested and taken to Crawley police station. Here he is duly processed and a DNA swab taken. This will be all the police need. Two weeks later he will be arrested for murder.Luckily for the police Dixie gives them his correct address. He’s been living and working as a chef at Ye Olde Six Bells pub in Horley, Surrey. His job could make his arrest problematic, so the police decide to create a story to get him out of the kitchen. They needn’t bother. As the two officers turn around they notice Dixie taking a cigarette break, and they take their opportunity to arrest him. He’s calm and unfazed by the whole incident. Disturbingly one of the officers notes how Dixie’s heart rate fails to change, which he finds chilling. Taken in for questioning and still appearing cold and emotionless Dixie answers ‘no comment’ to every question asked.On closer inspection of his room, police make a sickening discovery. They find he has been masturbating to photos and video footage of Sally Anne Bowman, reliving her brutal and callous murder.

Key Figures

Sally Anne Bowman – VictimLewis Sproston– Boyfriend and initial suspect for Sally Anne’s murderMark Dixie – The murderer, currently in HMP Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire serving a life sentenceDetective Superintendent Stuart Cundy – Headed up the investigationGerald Gordon – Judge