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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 20:02 GMT
Sarah was 'seconds away' from safety
Sarah's siblings Lee, Charlotte and Luke
Lee (left) with sister Charlotte and brother Luke
Sarah Payne's brother was just 10 seconds from saving the schoolgirl from the clutches of her killer, a court heard on Monday.


I was about 10 seconds away from catching up with Sarah

Luke Payne
Sarah's brother

Roy Whiting, 42, from Littlehampton, West Sussex, denies kidnapping and murdering Sarah in July last year.

On Monday the jury at his trial at Lewes Crown Court heard video evidence from Sarah's brothers Lee and Luke.

Click here for map of the area where Sarah vanished

Luke, who was 11 at the time, was chasing after the eight-year-old as she fled the cornfield where the family was playing together but turned back to comfort their younger sister.

When he looked back to Sarah, she had left the field and was running out into the road, where police believe she was snatched by the killer.

Luke said: "I was about 10 seconds away from catching up with Sarah but I had to go back and get Charlotte because I couldn't leave her."

Sarah (right) with sister Charlotte
Told to 'stay together'

Other members of Sarah's family described their final moments with the schoolgirl before she was abducted.

The prosecution claims Mr Whiting snatched Sarah from a lane in Kingston Gorse, West Sussex, on 1 July last year before murdering her and dumping her body in a shallow grave where it was discovered 17 days later.

'Pervert' fears

Luke said he was worried when he heard from his brother Lee that a white van was spotted near where Sarah disappeared and he feared there could be "a pervert going around in a white van picking up children".

Earlier Sarah's mother Sara Payne, 32, stood just feet away from Mr Whiting as she recounted the last hours she spent with Sarah before she was snatched from the country lane.

Mrs Payne said the family had travelled down from their home in Hersham, Surrey, to visit husband Michael's parents in Kingston Gorse.


Always my last words to them were please stay together

Sara Payne
Sarah's mother

Mrs Payne said the family had walked down to the beach together before she and her husband left the children to play while they went to see a house the their grandfather had worked on.

"They asked if they could stay on the beach and it was such a lovely evening that we decided that they could," said Mrs Payne.

Later she was asked by prosecuting counsel Timothy Langdale QC about the moment she discovered Sarah had gone missing.

She said. "We searched up and down in the fields. We turned to look and see if she had fallen, as it just wasn't like her."

Sarah's eldest brother Lee told detectives how a scruffy man "grinned and waved at me" before speeding away from the area where she disappeared

The youngster's recollections, recorded on a police film on 2 July, last year, were played to the jury on Monday.


The driver just sat there and grinned and waved at me and then went off

Lee Payne
Sarah's brother

Lee took the oath as a witness via a video-link from another room in the court building.

He chased after his sister as he saw her running across the cornfield, only to see her disappear through the hedge.

He went back to his grandparents' house in Peak Lane but was stunned when his grandmother told him Sarah had not reached home. "I've lost her."

In his video evidence a policewoman asked him about how he felt about the disappearance and he responded: "I feel as if I should've done something."

But when asked if he felt it was his fault, he said: "No."

Lee, who was 13 at the time, added that he had seen a white van coming out of Peak Lane.

'Hide and seek'

"We started off playing in a cornfield. We were playing a little game of hide and seek," said Lee.

"When I found Sarah I bumped into her. She started crying but calmed down.

"When we went to the rope swing she ran off. My brother caught up with her and told her to wait and then came back to get me and my sister Charlotte.


The driver just sat there and grinned and waved at me and then went off

Lee Payne
Sarah's brother

"But Sarah started to run off again. I ran after her but I could not see her. I ran back home and asked my Nan if she had seen her.

"There was this white van which pulled out. I could not see who was inside. It looked a little bit suspicious."

He saw the driver smile and wave at him when he saw the vehicle for the second time closer to his grandparents' house.

'Scruffy'

"He looked scruffy. He looked like he had not shaven for ages. He had little white bristles on his face and there were little bits of grey in his hair which was greasy.

"His face was dirty and he had yellowish teeth when he grinned. His eyes were really white and stood out on his face. He looked like he had been through some bushes."

Lee attended an identification parade four days after Sarah disappeared but did not pick out Mr Whiting.

The trial continues

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"Mrs Payne's recollections were followed by those of her two sons"
See also:

19 Nov 01 | England
15 Nov 01 | England
16 Nov 01 | England
18 May 01 | UK
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