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The BBC's Robert Hall
"This is still primarily a missing person inquiry"
 real 28k

Chief Constable Nigel Yeo
"We've had a very encouraging response from the public"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 21:29 GMT 22:29 UK
Two questioned over missing Sarah
Officer scours a field
Extensive searches have so far proved fruitless
Detectives investigating the disappearance of eight-year-old Sarah Payne are continuing to question two men.

One man in his 40s, believed to be from West Sussex, was arrested on Sunday. Police were granted another 24 hours to question him on Tuesday.

A second man in his 30s was arrested on Monday. He is not believed to be local to West Sussex.

Detectives are searching a block of flats on the Sussex coast.

Officers were guarding the three-storey block on the seafront at Littlehampton on Tuesday night.

The red wooden front door was wedged open as officers carried out searches inside.

Sarah Payne
Sarah was last seen playing with her brothers and sister
Neighbours said a man in his forties from the building was arrested by a team of officers on Sunday.

They said they also saw police tow away a white van which was parked nearby.

One neighbour believed the van had been parked on the seafront for about a week.

There has been no trace of Sarah since Saturday evening when she disappeared after playing with her brothers and sister in fields near Ferring, West Sussex.

Tearful appeal

Sarah's parents made a fresh television appeal on Tuesday night for the child's safe return.

Her mother broke down in front of the cameras and pledged to her daughter: "If she can see us or hear us, we are coming to get you darling."

Police have stressed the arrests do not suggest Sarah has been kidnapped, although fears have been growing that this is the case.

Searching fields
Volunteers have joined police in the hunt for Sarah
Police have now confirmed that they have three more sightings of a white transit-style van, first spotted by Sarah's 13-year-old brother Lee, in the area where his sister went missing.

Assistant chief constable of Sussex Police, Nigel Yeo, called for the driver of the van and the owner of a grey Ford Mondeo also seen at the time of Sarah's disappearance, to contact police.

Police divers have searched a network of storm drains and officers with sniffer dogs have been combing the countryside. But extensive searches have so far proved fruitless.

Search volunteers were sent home on Tuesday evening because of heavy rain.

Police have also been interviewing known sex offenders.

'Just let her go'

Mr Yeo said, despite the arrests, police were keeping an open mind on what had happened to the youngster.

"I refuse to give up hope or give up expectation and will continue to treat this as a missing persons inquiry until I have any other information to tell me otherwise," he said.


Sarah's mother made a direct plea to anyone holding the youngster
Sarah's mother pleaded with anyone holding her to let her go or even "drop her at the end of the road".

Mrs Payne said: "If anyone knows anything at all, please just dial 999 if you have to.

"If you've got her just let her go, let her walk out your door, drop her at the end of the road."

The Paynes describe Sarah as a "soft little girl" who would be very frightened by being separated from her family.

She was last seen wearing shiny black nylon shoes with Velcro fastenings and a blue Fred Perry style tennis dress. Her blonde hair is cut in a bob.

Anyone with information about the disappearance should contact Sussex police on 0845 6070999.

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