Gathering some of the world’s most insightful experts on the human mind, Making a Monster is a new true crime series that charts the development of serial murderers. The series also features psychologists who worked directly and face-to-face with each individual killer.
Under the spotlight in one episode is the particularly ominous and disturbing figure of Levi Bellield – a man whose name has become synonymous with senseless, misogynistic violence. An obsessively controlling bully and domestic tyrant, 'Bellfield is the perfect example of someone with an attachment disorder,' says forensic psychologist Dr Eric Cullen. 'For all his female conquests, both victims and girlfriends, he was determined that they could not leave him.'
There has been much speculation over how Levi Bellfield – killer of random, innocent young women – became the monster he is. Forensic psychologist Dr Richard Badcock points to an insidious narcissism that may have been planted in his formative years thanks to a doting mother who lavished attention on him after his father died when he was still a boy. 'He was the favourite child, never held accountable for any wrongdoing,' Badcock says.
He was lovely at first, charming, then completely controlling and evil.
Certainly, it seems his thrusting ego allowed him to be far more successful with the opposite sex than might be assumed from looking at his unprepossessing appearance. The young Bellfield had countless conquests and fathered no fewer than 11 children with various girlfriends. His cocky confidence even managed to impress the detectives who snared him. 'When we started dealing with him he came across as very jokey, like he’s your best mate,' Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton later recounted. 'But he’s a cunning individual, violent. He can switch from being nice to being nasty, instantly.'
Another police officer, Detective Sergeant Jo Brunt, referenced the accounts of Bellfield’s girlfriends, saying 'He was lovely at first, charming, then completely controlling and evil.'
He exhibited classic traits of controlling behaviour, confiscating their mobile phones and giving them replacements loaded with his number only, and gradually stopping them from seeing friends and family, or even leaving the house without his explicit say-so. One story told by an ex-girlfriend summed the Bellfield 'experience' up – following an argument, he instructed her to stay sitting on a stool in the kitchen all night, while he went to bed. 'She said she would rather wet herself than have moved from that school,' Detective Sergeant Jo Brunt said. 'That shows how frightened they were of him.'
In 2003, a 19-year-old girl named Marsha McDonnell was found lying in her own blood, just metres from her home in Hampton. She’d been brutally bludgeoned after getting off the bus following a night out with friends. 'The pain of Marsha's death is simply indescribable and I know it will never go away until the day I die,' her father would tell journalists.
In 2004, 18-year-old Kate Sheedy was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver in Isleworth. Lying broken on the cold ground, horribly aware of what had happened to her, she used her mobile phone to call her mum and say she was dying. Thankfully, despite broken bones and terrible internal injuries, Kate Sheedy survived the senseless attack.
Later that same year, 22-year-old French national Amélie Delagrange was bludgeoned to death in Twickenham Green. The parallels with Marsha McDonnell’s murder were obvious. In fact, Bellfield had been behind both crimes, as well as the attempted killing of Kate Sheedy. But catching Bellfield proved to be a frustrating undertaking, thanks to the lack of forensic evidence. Instead, CCTV footage proved crucial, with a white van parked near the Amélie Delagrange crime scene gaining the detectives’ notice. It was concluded that the killer would cruise the streets, scoping out women who took his fancy.
A painstaking search for similar vans in the local area, along with a tip-off about a man named Bellfield who drove a white van and was known for his violent temper, eventually led to the killer’s arrest. He was apprehended while hiding, naked, under the fibreglass insulation in his loft.
'It was the first time I’d set eyes on Bellfield in the flesh. He was larger than I had imagined, both taller and fatter, with a huge neck,' Detective Colin Sutton later wrote. 'I am so glad that, in those moments, the last few minutes of freedom he would enjoy in his entire life, he was not only very uncomfortable but also utterly devoid of dignity. It is still much better than he deserved.'
The true extent of Bellfield’s hideous past would come out when he was also convicted, years later, of the murder of 13-year-old Milly Dowler, which took place back in 2002. The Milly Dowler case became notorious, both because of the youth of his helpless victim, and because of the phone hacking scandal which followed, with tabloid journalists revealed to have accessed her phone’s voicemail inbox.
Bellfield has also been speculatively linked to the murders of mother and daughter Lin and Megan Russell in 1996, although a seemingly solid alibi would appear to preclude Bellfield from being the culprit. At any rate, Bellfield is now serving a whole life sentence – a fate he earned by way of his lethal ego. In the words ofColin Sutton, 'He thinks "You dare to turn down Levi Bellfield, you’re worth nothing" and she gets a whack over the head.'
While he remains a fascinating case study in human monstrosity, and while psychologists may continue to dissect the nature of his pathology, the fortunate fact is that this monster was at least apprehended, and will remain caged till the day he dies.