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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 14:41 GMT
Sarah accused gave funfair alibi
Artist's impression of Roy Whiting in the dock with Sara and Michael Payne
The court has heard details of Mr Whiting's alibi
A man accused of murdering schoolgirl Sarah Payne told police he was at a funfair on the evening she was abducted, a court has heard.

Lewes Crown Court heard that police officers who visited Roy Whiting's one-bedroom flat in Littlehampton, West Sussex, the day after she vanished were told by him that he had gone to the fair in Hove at 5.30pm.

Sarah (right) with sister Charlotte
Sarah (right) with her sister Charlotte
Mr Whiting, 42, said he had driven home along the A27 road, arriving back at his flat at 9.30pm.

A police officer also told the court Mr Whiting showed him "different t-shirts" after he was asked what he was wearing on the night Sarah disappeared.

Mr Whiting denies kidnapping and murdering Sarah, who was snatched from a field near her grandparents' home in East Preston on 1 July.

The eight-year-old's body was found an isolated field close to the A29 road at Pulborough, West Sussex on 17 July.

The jury heard from Detective Constable Christopher Saunders, who said that Mr Whiting's flat was very untidy.

Bath and bed

He said he informed him they were investigating the disappearance of an eight-year-old girl from nearby Kingston Gorse on the previous evening.

Mr Whiting gave an account of his visit to the funfair and said he arrived home at 9.30pm, had a bath and went to bed.

Mr Saunders made a note of Mr Whiting's appearance, recording that he was six feet tall, with short dark hair with a centre parting.

He noted that Mr Whiting had a front tooth missing and was a smoker.

He told the court that when Mr Whiting was asked whether he could tell officers where Sarah was, he replied: "No, I can't."

'Grubby t-shirt'

Mr Saunders said when the defendant was asked what he had been wearing the previous day, he showed him a white t-shirt in his van.

"It was rumpled up and it was dirty, it was grubby," said Mr Saunders.

Later that evening the officer watched from an unmarked police car as Mr Whiting went out to his van.

"He seemed to be moving things about and he seemed to be looking for something," said Mr Saunders.

Asked by police what he had taken removed, Mr Whiting pulled a pair of socks and black t-shirt from his laundry basket.

But Mr Saunders told the jury that when he suggested this was not the t-shirt he had earlier seen in the van, Mr Whiting took out a clean neatly folded one from a bedroom drawer.

Mr Saunders said: "Again I said to him the t-shirt was not the one I had seen earlier. He said absolutely nothing".

Mr Whiting was then arrested on suspicion of abducting Sarah, he told the court.

Under cross-examination, Mr Saunders said: "Of the two t-shirts I saw that night they were worlds apart from each other.

"They were completely different t-shirts.

"In terms of their cleanliness they were opposite ends of the cleanliness scale."

The trial continues.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
reports from Lewes Crown Court
Full coverage of the trial

The verdict

Catching a murderer

Protecting children


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