The discovery of Amanda Dowler’s body was the moment her distraught parents have dreaded for six months.
Robert and Sally Dowler - together with family and friends - had prayed and pleaded for their daughter’s safe return.
During the early stages of the police inquiry the devastated couple, along with their older daughter Gemma, 16, bravely appeared before the cameras, often breaking down in tears, as they begged for news of their precious Milly.
In one appeal Mrs Dowler said: “We just desperately hope she is alive - it’s the only thing that keeps us going, to think that she’s out there and that we’re going to get her back.
“I can’t rest because I can’t think what’s happened to her, I have to blank it off and focus on making posters or anything that will help us get her back.”
Not surprisingly, the family’s mood regularly switched from endless hope to dreaded fear as lead after lead came to nothing.
On half-a-dozen occasions police informed them of a body being found and to prepare for the worst, only for the remains to be those of someone else.
When they were told by detectives about the discovery in woodland near Fleet, Hampshire, on Wednesday their fears were raised yet again.
And today, with the confirmation of the remains as those of their daughter their worst nightmare was realised.
As the months had gone by since Milly vanished they had come to accept she had been murdered like Soham girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
But they had still hoped against hope for a miracle.
Speaking in an interview to mark her disappearance six months ago tomorrow, Mrs Dowler, 43, described their torment.
“The not knowing is just awful because there is still that element of doubt,” she said.
“Has someone taken her, but is she still alive?
“As unlikely as you know that is, you can’t help thinking, ‘Oh please let that be the case’.
“I think in the beginning my brain went into overload and I honestly felt in complete fear of losing my mind.
“I couldn’t cope because there was no answer.
“Right now if you asked me what do you think happened? I’d say she has been murdered.
“I haven’t had that absolute feeling that it’s happened at a precise minute. I haven’t really gone beyond thinking she’s been abducted and she’s dead.
“What’s happened in between is a gap - I can’t bring myself to think about that bit.
“Until we find out for sure what’s happened, it’s too awful to contemplate.”
Mr Dowler, 50, now prizes video footage he filmed of Milly ironing which was broadcast in television appeals to the nation.
“Nothing in your life can prepare you for this,” he said.
After a body found in the Thames a month after Milly’s disappearance turned out to be that of a missing elderly woman Mr Dowler told of the family’s relief.
But it meant the anguish continued.
“The relief when we heard it wasn’t her was obviously fantastic,” he said then.
“But then there was also that feeling we are back to square one, we still don’t know what has happened.
“I don’t believe we will ever move on until we have some news.”
Gemma, meanwhile, desperately tried to get her sister back, writing an open letter pleading for Milly’s safe return.
“I cannot understand why anyone would take or want to harm Milly but there must be somebody out there that knows what has happened to her,” she wrote.
In another appeal Gemma told how she missed her “girly chats” with her sister.
“When you try to sleep you just can’t get it out of your head,” she said. “You keep thinking ‘Oh, where is she?’ What’s happening to her? What if something’s going wrong?
“I can’t believe it’s happening. Why is this happening to me? What have we done wrong?”