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The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"They are increasingly certain the 8 year old was abducted and then hidden"
 real 28k

Inspector Mike Alderson
"We remain hopeful"
 real 28k

Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
Sarah's parents prepared for worst
police searcing fields for Sarah Payne
Police searches are now focusing on the countryside
The parents of missing eight-year-old Sarah Payne have been told to prepare themselves for the possibility she might not be found alive.

Police said all the possible outcomes had been discussed with Sara and Michael Payne on Wednesday night.

Sean Scott, a family liaison officer with Sussex police, said: "I have discussed with the Payne family a number of options and one of those is that Sarah may not be found safe and well."


They are a remarkable family who, despite the circumstances, remain very strong and very positive

Sean Scott
Sarah went missing from near her grandparents' home at Kingston Gorse, near Worthing, West Sussex, on 1 July.

Mr Scott said Mr and Mrs Payne were realistic but were still holding on to the hope that she is safe and well.

"They are a remarkable family who, despite the circumstances, remain very strong and very positive," Mr Scott said.

But assistant chief constable Nigel Yeo said the police were still treating Sarah's disappearance as a missing persons inquiry.

Abduction

"Until I have a reason to stop believing she is alive, I will continue to believe she is alive," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Yeo told a press conference he thought it more and more likely that Sarah had been abducted.

Police are asking the public to consider where someone might be able to hide a young child.

White Transit-style van
Hunt for a white van continues
The inquiry is moving the focus of its house-to-house checks from urban areas into the countryside in the hope that farmers, landowners or farm workers may have seen something suspicious.

Police are establishing a search corridor through the largely rural north of the county along the A24 in the hope of getting information that could lead to a hiding place being used by Sarah's abductor.

The road runs north from the Sussex coast towards the M25 and London.

Police have also called for the public to concentrate on looking out for Sarah rather than for a man resembling an e-fit picture issued several days ago.

The e-fit was issued after the man was seen with a girl fitting Sarah's description at a service station in Knutsford, Cheshire, but detectives now believe that it may be too indistinct to yield positive identification.

Helpline numbers
Sussex Police: 08456070999
National Missing Persons Helpline: 0500700700
Crimestoppers: 0800555111

Mr Yeo said that police were almost sure that the missing child had not suffered a mishap in the immediate area from where she disappeared.

He also confirmed that detectives were still anxious to hear from anyone who may have seen a white van in the Littlehampton area on either 1 or 2 July.

He said he was especially keen to hear from anyone who noticed a white van's rear doors or panelling being changed.

Mr Yeo said the public response to the police appeal for help continued to be "enormous".

Police received 3,200 phonecalls on Wednesday, 400 of them within one 15-minute period.

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