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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 04:32 GMT 05:32 UK
Abducted child scheme 'a lifesaver'
Milly Dowler and Sarah Payne
Amber could have helped Milly Dowler and Sarah Payne
An abduction alert system used in the US could help stop a repeat of the Milly Dowler murder, according to a senior police figure.

Sussex Police Chief Superintendent Jeremy Paine led the Sarah Payne murder hunt and is so enthusiastic about the system that he may lobby government for its introduction.

The system works by alerting the public immediately after a child goes missing.

TV and radio programmes are interrupted with news flashes the moment a child goes missing under America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response (Amber).


You are asking everybody in the nation to stop what they are doing, get their eyes peeled and see if they can spot the child or the suspect

Chief superintendent Jeremy Paine, Sussex police
Mr Paine believes such a system could have helped in the cases of both Milly, whose body was found last week in Hampshire, and Sarah Payne, who was murdered by Roy Whiting two years ago.

Mr Paine is thinking about approaching the government to consider a similar system after seeing Amber used in California and being "absolutely sold on it".

He travelled there as part of a special investigation by ITV1's Tonight with Trevor McDonald.

He will tell the programme, to be screened on Monday night at 2000 BST that he may lobby Home Secretary David Blunkett.

He said: "Whether we can get it up nationally straight away I don't know, that would take a fair bit of money and complete commitment from the whole country.

Chief superintendent Jeremy Paine
Jeremy Paine: Sold on the system
"Whether we run a pilot in Sussex, and I would be willing to do that, we shall have to wait and see, but the Americans have done it like that."

As police widen the search for Milly Dowler's killer and the country comes to terms with the deaths of Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, Mr Paine believes Amber could have an important role to play in the UK.

In his TV interview, he will say: "I think it is absolutely brilliant.

"When it comes to investigating abducted children there are three key bits to this.

"We are getting really good at prevention - working with registered sex offenders - we are getting pretty good at investigating after the event, but the number one priority is to save the life of a child and that is what Amber Alert is all about."

The system has been operating for six years in the US, where 2,200 children go missing every day.

Sarah Payne in a family photograph
Sarah disappeared while playing with her siblings
He thinks broadcasters could be persuaded to be associated with the initiative.

He said: "I think it would be an interesting debate with the broadcaster that said they are not going to do it."

He said he thought it could have helped in the cases of Sarah Payne and Milly Dowler.

He said: "It could well have done, I mean it is about getting in there really fast, making a really quick assessment, is this one of these critical child abductions?

"What you are doing is you are asking everybody in the nation to stop what they are doing, get their eyes peeled and see if they can spot the child or the suspect and what this country has done has said this is the most important crime.

"It is the only crime we are going to do that for and I think that would be right in Britain too."

Surrey Police have received 350 phone calls since Milly Dowler's remains were discovered last week, officers have revealed.

Detectives are sifting through the information to see if they produce any new leads in the hunt for her killer.


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21 Sep 02 | England
02 Aug 02 | Americas
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