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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 20:01 GMT
Sarah accused 'silent when quizzed'
The inside of Roy Whiting's white van
Mr Whiting's van after police had examined it
The man accused of murdering schoolgirl Sarah Payne replied "no comment" when police asked if he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed her, a court has heard.

Lewes Crown Court was told that Roy Whiting, 42, was interviewed over four days after being arrested on 2 July last year, the day after the eight-year-old went missing.

The jury heard he remained silent during the interviews, when police at Bognor Regis in West Sussex asked if he knew where Sarah was and whether he knew the area where she was last seen.

Mr Whiting, of Littlehampton, West Sussex, denies murdering Sarah, whose naked body was found in an isolated field close to the A29 at Pulborough, West Sussex on 17 July, 2000.

On Monday police also released the first pictures of Mr Whiting's white Fiat Ducato van after it had been stripped bare by forensics experts.

The prosecution alleges the van was used in the abduction and murder of Sarah.

Scratches

The jury heard that Mr Whiting refused to tell interviewing officer Detective Inspector Jeffrey Riley where he was on 2 July.

Sarah (right) with sister Charlotte
Sarah (right) with her sister Charlotte
When asked about three scratches found on his body he was told a jury could draw its own conclusions if he refused to comment.

Crispin Aylett, prosecuting, asked Mr Riley: "Was he given a special warning as to the consequences of failing to give explanations of the scratches seen by Dr Ewan Gerrard and was warned a court might gain an inference from the failure to give any explanation?"

Mr Riley said the warning had been given, but Mr Whiting still made no comment.

Under later questioning, when he was rearrested on 31 July, Mr Whiting refused to account for the presence of a blow torch, baby oil, rope and a clown patterned curtain in his van.

'Vital clues'

Earlier the court heard how police searching Mr Whiting's home found vital forensic clues, removing more than 400 items.

A red sweatshirt and the patterned curtain found in Mr Whiting's van were shown to the jury.

Roy Whiting
Roy Whiting 'had three scratches'
A single strand of Sarah's blonde hair was found by forensic experts on the jumper, they were told.

A fibre from the curtain was found on a shoe - identified by Sarah's mother as belonging to her daughter - which had been spotted close to where the youngster's body was found, the court was told.

Also found in the white van was a copy of the Sunday Mirror and DIY goods receipts dated 2 July.

Mr Whiting had claimed he had stayed in all day until going out for a meal at a local café at 7.45pm.

Detective Constable Phillip Mullan told the jury he spent more than 100 hours examining Mr Whiting's flat.

Mr Mullan said officers took every piece of clothing and bedding from Mr Whiting's flat.

Cross examining Sally O'Neill, defending, told Mr Mullan: "It's no exaggeration that you went through the flat with a fine tooth comb."

"No, it's not exaggeration," he replied.

He added that he had taken an array of photographs before items were removed from the flat.

The trial continues.

Full coverage of the trial

The verdict

Catching a murderer

Protecting children

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
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