PEOPLE in the village where police uncovered a DNA link to murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler are living in fear of a "killer in our midst".

A male DNA sample taken from an item of Millie's clothing has been matched to one found after a theft at a church 350 miles away.

The DNA came from saliva found on a flower-patterned mug used by a sneak thief at St Paul's Church, in Ryhope, Sunderland.

Surrey Police were alerted after the sample was found to be identical to DNA discovered on the 13-year-old's clothing, which was taken from her bedroom by forensic experts after her disappearance.

Two men cautioned for burglary after stealing poppy day cash from the church have been swabbed by detectives, but the DNA match was not from them.

A team of Surrey officers travelled to the North-East last week and took DNA from 46 men connected with the church, including vicar David Meakin and vergers.

But as they await the results, the village has been left in fear that Millie's killer could be living on their doorstep.

They are now calling for Surrey Police to do a DNA sweep of the whole village in a bid to identify the man linked to the 13-year-old.

Church warden Gordon Peel, 70, was one of those tested by police.

He said: "It is shocking to think that the church could be linked to that poor girl's death. Police must have a very good reason to travel 350 miles to do these tests and they must believe there is a definite link to the girl."

Resident John Rawling, 63, has lived in the village for 20 years.

He said: "To think that the killer could possibly be living in this village is frightening.

"But it is no good for the police just to test volunteers and church regulars. They should do the whole village. Everything should be done to catch the person responsible."

The discovery of the clue comes ten months after Millie went missing while walking home from school in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, and four months after her body was discovered by mushroom pickers in Yately Heath Forest, in Hampshire.

The DNA link has renewed rumours that the youngster had a "secret" and was seeing someone none of her friends or family knew about.

Church warden Isabel Snaith, 72, said: "There are weddings, funerals and christenings here every week and anyone could have taken a drink from that cup."

Church-goer Sandra Kendell, 56, said: "It is frightening to think that the person who killed Millie Dowler could have been in this little church of ours.

"I know it is an outside possibility and there are other reasons why there would be a DNA match, but it still sends shivers down my spine to think he could have been standing next to me singing a hymn under God's roof."

Detectives are appealing for any men who have not so far been tested but who have had contact with St Paul's Church to come forward.