Family re-lives Sarah's last moments

The family of schoolgirl Sarah Payne had to re-live her final moments again today as a second jury started hearing the case against her alleged killer.

The trial of Roy Whiting got under way for a second time at Lewes Crown Court after being halted yesterday when the first jury was discharged because of a "procedural irregularity" which meant that that trial, which was in its second day, could not continue.

Today Timothy Langdale QC, prosecuting told the new jurors that they would hear "compelling evidence" against Whiting.

Sarah was snatched during a day with her family in Kingston Gorse, West Sussex, on July 1 last year, he said.

Sarah's father, Michael, 33, and grandparents, Terry and Lesley sat in the back of the courtroom, as they did during the original prosecution opening two days ago, to hear Mr Langdale describe their last day with her.

Earlier, Mr Payne and his wife Sara, 32, had looked tired and distressed as they arrived at the court.

Mrs Payne, who was not in the courtroom, is expected to give evidence later in the trial.

Mr Langdale said the family had travelled from home in Hersham, Surrey, on July 1 to visit Terry and Lesley Payne in West Sussex.

But hours later, eight-year-old Sarah was snatched from a road beside a cornfield, where she had been playing with her brothers Lee, 13, Luke, 11, and her five-year-old sister Charlotte.

Her body was found in a shallow grave beside the A29 near Pulborough, West Sussex, on July 17.

"There is compelling evidence that points directly to Roy Whiting and Roy Whiting alone as being the person responsible for kidnapping Sarah Payne and for killing her," Mr Langdale told the jury of nine men and three women.

Whiting, 42, formerly of Littlehampton, West Sussex, denies kidnap and murder.

Sarah's killer smiled and waved at her brother as he drove away with the eight-year-old in the back of his van, the court heard.

Mr Langdale said Sarah, her brothers and sister were enjoying an innocent game of hide and seek in a field close to their grandparent's home.

The children had separated from their parents and grandfather Terry, who had all been for a walk to the seaside, on the strict understanding that they would stay together as they played in the field, a short walk away.

But Sarah became upset after banging her head while playing in the corn field and decided to walk home alone.

Luke spotted her leaving and went after her to tell her to wait. He then went back to tell Lee what had happened. Lee than chased after Sarah to accompany her home.

But as he was halfway across the field he saw Sarah slip through a gap in a hedge which led back into Kingston Lane.

Mr Langdale said: "It was the last time Lee saw Sarah and the last time anyone saw her alive, save of course the man who abducted her and killed her."

As Lee crossed the field he momentarily saw a white van drive along Kingston Lane. As he left the field he assumed he would find Sarah making her way back to their grandparents' house.

He started to jog along Kingston Lane and as he approached Peak Lane he again saw a white van.

He saw the van pull out of Peak Lane at speed with its wheels spinning, and as he carried on the van came back towards him along the lane.

Lee noticed it was an unmarked long wheel-based van with no windows either in its rear doors or on the sides.

Mr Langdale said: "As the driver passed Lee he grinned or smiled at him and gave a wave of his hand.

"Lee described the driver as being scruffy, who looked as if he had not shaven for a while. He said his hair was dark with little bits of grey in it. He said the driver was wearing a checked shirt with red and blue in the check.

"Lee did not realise his sister was in the back of the van."

Mr Langdale said the man who abducted eight-year-

old Sarah from an idyllic country lane was "on the prowl" for children.

Kingston Lane was not a road for through traffic, but maybe the driver of the white van knew there was a playing area in the cornfield.

Mr Langdale said: "A person who was driving along and decided to snatch a child and take that child away does not suddenly decide to do so as it suddenly seems a good idea.

"Maybe you will conclude that anybody who does that, who is driving along, is somebody who has that in mind if the opportunity affords itself - somebody who is on the prowl in terms of a young child or children."

Sarah's disappearance could not have been predicted, Mr Langdale said, adding: "Nobody could have predicted Sarah Payne was going to walk out of that field at the time that she did.

It was pure chance that that happened - but it is what happened.

"Nobody knows what the driver was doing immediately before he drove along Kingston Lane.

"It seems that the person driving that van might well have known that this field was popular with the children.

"Who knows whether the driver of the van had stopped or got out and taken a look as to whether there were children in that field.

"There is no doubt at all about it, this was an opportunistic grabbing of Sarah Payne, but not by somebody who had no thought in his head before doing it, that that is what he would do if he got the chance."

The driver must have known that it would be impossible to get out of Kingston Lane unless he turned back on himself.

"The driver of the van new perfectly well he could not drive down Kingston Lane and get out," Mr Langdale told the jury.

"One thing that a person who abducted a child in this way would have had in mind would have been to get out of the area as quickly as possible with his prey inside the van.

"You may conclude the driver of that van knew, to get away he had to turn around and come back on himself.

"You will be hearing evidence that Mr Whiting, apart from living not very far away, knew this particular area very well."

Mr Langdale described the frantic moments as the Payne family desperately searched for missing Sarah.

Luke and Lee had started searching before their parents and grandfather arrived back at the house, and the family searched all of the places where they thought she could be.

"You can imagine their concern when their efforts to find Sarah produced no result. There was no sign, they checked all possible relevant places.

They checked the beach, the field and further down Kingston Lane in a mounting state of panic and alarm."

The family finally called the police at 9.30pm but over the ensuing days no trace was found of Sarah.

The jury was shown an image of the man that Lee had drawn up after he saw the driver smiling at him.

Mr Langdale said Lee thought it was an "85% likeness" of the man.

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