The True Crime Edition
The Murder of Sally Anne Bowman
Sally’s killer attacked women in at least three countries, but a lack of due diligence meant he continued his rampage for decades.
Sally Anne’s murder was tragic, but what made the 18-year-old’s death worse was that she was right outside her home when she was attacked in the early hours of the morning. Her screams of pain and terror went unanswered, and when a neighbour eventually came to investigate, it was too late.
Sally Anne Bowman via Murderpedia
Born in September 1987 in Carshalton, south London, Sally Anne was the youngest of four daughters and had set her sights on fame. She attended The BRIT School, a performing arts college that had honed the talent of Adele and Amy Winehouse, and she also worked part-time as a hairdresser.
At six feet tall, she was also a model and became the face of Swatch, which caught the attention of Pulse Model Management, who quickly signed her.
The 24th of September 2005 was a Saturday, and like most 18-year-olds, Sally and her older sister were planning a night out on the town after a long week. Not wanting to travel into London, the women decided to spend their evening on Croydon high street at Lloyds Bar. The friends drank and had a good time, but at 1am, Sally was ready to leave and waited for a cab to take her to a friend’s house.
Soon after arriving, Sally Anne called her ex-boyfriend, Lewis, who was in Kingston at The Works nightclub, and asked him to collect her and drop her home. He picked her up in his car around 2.20am and began to drive back to her house. During the car ride, the pair argued about their relationship ending, with each blaming the other for cheating. The argument lasted two hours, and for Lewis, it’s forever stamped in his memory.
“I thought she had been with boys that night and she thought I had been with girls — it was just jealousy. There may have been raised voices but not shouting. Nobody outside the car would have heard it. We then made up, hugging and kissing. But Sally Anne didn’t want me to leave and we started to argue. In all it was for about one and a half to two hours from the time we arrived there.”
The 20-year-old plasterer had stopped the car near Sally’s home on Blenheim Crescent, but Sally wasn’t ready to leave her ex-boyfriend yet.
“I leaned across her to open the passenger door. She and I got out of the passenger door. I went to get into the car again but she didn’t want me to and she grabbed my T-shirt ripping my chain from my neck. After a couple of minutes, I got back into the car and locked the doors. Sally Anne picked up her handbag and I saw her walking away through the rear view mirror. The last thing I saw of Sally Anne was her entering her front garden. She was looking at me for the first couple of seconds as she started to walk towards the garden.”
At 4.20am, Sally Anne’s screams were heard by her neighbours, but none investigated the noise. She’d been stabbed several times outside her home by her attacker already, but when no one opened their door to find the source of the cries, her attack continued. He violently raped Sally Anne while she lay dying.
Soon after the attack, one of the neighbours who heard Sally’s screams found the 18 year old near her home, surrounded by blood.
“I put on my dressing gown and slippers and went across the road. I walked round the left side of the skip. I just felt I knew what I would see… I knelt, just as a natural thing, and said ‘Oh, poor darling.’”
The police were called, and the home was cordoned off to onlookers who’d begun to surround the quiet road. The autopsy of Sally Anne was performed quickly, and the findings weren’t what the police expected. Alongside the stab wounds, some of which had pierced all the way through Sally’s body, they also found bite marks on her neck, chest, and cheek.
The attack was vicious and shocked the community. The investigation to find the teenager’s murderer began in earnest because there were no real witnesses or security cameras despite the heavily populated area. It wasn’t going to be easy to find him, but they had one piece of evidence on their side; the killer had left his DNA.
Sally Anne’s boyfriend Lewis was initially treated as the main suspect in the case and was eventually arrested for her murder after phone records showed he’d threatened her about seeing other men. However, his DNA wasn’t a match to the sample found at the scene, and he was released four days later.
Nearly five months after Sally Anne’s murder, DNA screenings began across Croydon. Of the 340,000 people living in the area, only 771 men came forward to volunteer their samples. The police had nothing else to go on, and the case was going cold. It was now February, and little had progressed in the investigation into the 18-year-old’s murder.
It would take another four months before Sally Anne’s killer revealed himself.
That Saturday in September had been a night out for many in the Croydon area. With over 150 bars and pubs to choose from, there was no shortage of socialising opportunities in the town. This night, while Sally Anne drank in Lloyds Bar on the high street, another celebration was happening two miles down the road.
Mark Dixie had turned 35 and was celebrating his birthday that night. The pub chef had spent his evening drinking at the Windsor Castle pub with a couple of friends after returning home from a camping trip earlier that day.
After drinking heavily and taking drugs, Dixie and his friends finally left the pub around 2.30am and returned to a house on Avondale Road, where he was left on the sofa downstairs, alone, for the rest of the night.
Nine months later, on the 15th of June, Mark Dixie was arrested after a minor bar brawl over the England versus Trinidad and Tobago football game he was watching at a pub in Crawley, West Sussex. Police could take DNA from anyone arrested, no matter how minor the crime was by this point. That day, Dixie cried while being questioned and swabbed, amusing the custody officers. The reason for his emotional outburst would later become apparent.
Mark Dixie via Murderpedia
It took two weeks for Mark Dixie’s DNA to work its way through the system and to come back as a match to the sample found on Sally Anne Bowman.
Dixie was arrested at work while on a cigarette break. During a search of his property, police found images of Sally Anne and footage of him masturbating over them.
The pub chef pleaded not guilty for the murder of the 18-year-old, and he went on trial at the Old Bailey in February 2008. During the trial, he was described as a freeloader who used people, and many acquaintances came forward to tell their stories of the man described as “bad, not mad”.
The jury heard how Dixie locked his friends in their bedroom, so they wouldn’t realise he’d left. It was also revealed that he’d tried to remove his DNA from Sally Anne’s body using cement dust from a nearby building skip, covering the bite marks and pouring it down her throat. The court also heard that Dixie used to live just a few doors down from Sally Anne Bowman.
The three locations via Maps
He later confessed to raping Sally Anne while she lay dead or dying but refused to admit that he’d killed the teenager, claiming he’d found her unconscious and took advantage of the situation. He said he only realised she was dead when he bit her cheek.
On the 22nd of February, he was unanimously found guilty of murder after three hours of deliberation by the jury. He was sentenced to a minimum of 34 years in prison, where he was transferred to County Durham’s facility, HMP Frankland. The sentencing was one of the longest minimum terms ever handed out in the United Kingdom.
After the sentencing, Detective Superintendent Cundy spoke to the press.
“Mark Dixie faces a life behind bars — a result that ensures the public are protected from a truly dangerous sexual killer…Sally Anne was a young woman who had her whole of her life ahead of her. Mark Dixie cut that life short in the most horrific way imaginable.”
As more details came to light during the trial, the court heard that Dixie had lived in Australia from 1993 to 1999, where he followed a girlfriend named Sandra, with who he eventually had two sons. At the same time, the Claremont serial killer was prowling Perth, and for a while, it was thought that Dixie and the killer were one and the same. Although his DNA confirmed he wasn’t the right man, there were others who Dixie went on to hurt.
The chef had a long criminal record, including robbery, burglary, indecent assault, exposure and assaulting a police officer. He’d used aliases, such as Mark Down, Steven McDonald and Shane Turner, and he’d been deported from Australia after he committed a sexual offence.
In 2015, Dixie finally admitted to killing Sally Anne Bowman. He also confessed that he’d raped two other women.
In 1987, when Dixie was just 16, he attacked a woman, pushing her into her own car and sexually assaulted her. He’d tied her to the door, then set alight to the vehicle, however, the woman managed to escape.
In 1998, a Thai student in Australia was threatened at knifepoint to strip off her clothes, and her assailant then stabbed her and left her for dead, though she survived. The DNA found at the scene belonged to Mark Dixie.
He also went on to admit to a brutal rape in 2002. He sexually assaulted the woman on a set of stairs and bludgeoned her with a knife sharpener. She reportedly survived the attack. Dixie also reportedly robbed, raped and battered three women while living in Spain with his girlfriend.
In total, he had 17 other convictions for criminal acts, and in 2017, Dixie was given two further life sentences for the sexual attacks in 1987 and 2002.
There was criticism at the time as to why authorities in Australia didn’t put Mark Dixie in prison, or at least on a sex offender register for his crimes. At the time, Dixie had been ordered to pay a fine and was deported.
“We now know he was arrested at least three times in Australia but he was deported without any warnings being issued by the authorities,” said Linda, Sally Anne’s mother in The Mirror. “They didn’t do their job properly and that’s the reason my daughter’s dead.”
Mark Dixie is still in prison at HMP Frankland, where he’s reportedly become friends with Levi Bellfield, Ian Huntley and the late Peter Sutcliffe. Over the years, Dixie’s been linked to other unsolved cases, including the attack on a woman just hours before Sally Anne in the same vicinity and Jennifer Kiely, a homeless woman killed in January 2005. Still, there seems to be little recent news.
“If the breakthrough was over a year ago I’m wondering why they haven’t tried to find a link to Dixie. Jennifer’s mother deserves answers,” Sally Anne’s mother Linda told The Sun in 2018.
Detective Superintendent Stuart Cundy criticised the speed at which Mark Dixie was identified.
“It is my opinion that a national DNA register — with all its appropriate safeguards — could have identified Sally Anne’s murderer within 24 hours. Instead it took nearly nine months before Mark Dixie was identified, and almost two-and-a-half years for justice to be done.”
The government turned down the national DNA register bill, stating that it was ‘impractical’ to safeguard a database of 60 million people at the time, not to mention the ethical issues with putting everyone who lived in the UK on a database for the ease of catching criminals.
Mark Dixie is now 50 years old and is unlikely to see the outside world again, with a potential release date in 2040. Over the years, his motives have been brought into question. He was a tall, good looking guy, who wasn’t short of female admirers. It’s been argued that his childhood is the reason for his actions.
At 18 months old, Dixie’s father left the family and never returned. In his place, a new stepfather, Ronald McDonald, moved into the home, abusing and beating him viciously.
When Dixie was twelve, he was left on the steps of a children’s home by his mother in Streatham. He was taken into care and began robbing people at just 14 years old. He punched a teacher in the face when he was 15 and was expelled, spending six weeks in a young offender’s institute. The violence continued into adulthood.
Three weeks before Sally Anne’s murder, Dixie was thrown out of the home he shared with his girlfriend and young son. But, instead of waiting around, he boarded a coach to Amsterdam, where he took drugs and partied until his money ran out. The night of Sally’s murder, Dixie had tried to convince his girlfriend to take him back, but she refused.
A series of events accumulating over a long period of time could have been what sent the chef over the edge that night, but it isn’t a pass on his heinous acts.
In 2013, Sally Anne’s body was exhumed from her gravesite as her headstone had been destroyed four times in six months, and the area had become a breeding ground for antisocial behaviour. Though her family now have some closure, with Mark Dixie admitted to killing their girl, Sally Anne’s memory has been tarnished by those who have little respect for the dead.