BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Timeline: The search for Sarah Payne
Police search
Police carried out an exhaustive search
Within hours of her disappearance, police launched a UK-wide campaign to find eight-year-old Sarah Payne.

Initially it was thought she had wandered off, but fears soon grew that she had been abducted.

Working closely with Sarah's family, Sussex Police appealed for anyone with any information to come forward.

Although thousands responded, as time wore on hopes of finding Sarah alive began to fade.

Saturday 1 July: Sarah disappears from her grandparents' home in West Sussex after an argument with her brothers and sister at about 2000BST. She is reported missing soon after. Fire crews and police spend the night searching without success.

Sarah Payne
A new photo of Sarah, issued on the day a body was found
Sunday 2nd: More than 50 officers and 80 volunteers join in a fingertip search of the immediate area. A man in his 40s is arrested.

Monday 3rd: Michael and Sara Payne make the first of their emotional televised appeals for their eight-year-old daughter's safe return. Police say she could have been abducted. A second man in his 30s is arrested.

Wednesday 5th: Police stage an identity parade. The two arrested men are released on bail pending further inquiries.

Thursday 6th: Every police force in the country is involved in the hunt for the missing girl. The search is scaled down as the inquiry shifts to specific leads, including claims of attempted abductions in the area.

Friday 7th: Police stage a reconstruction of Sarah's last known movements in an effort to jog the memories of possible witnesses. Early DNA test results on samples taken from several addresses are inconclusive.

A young child re-traces Sarah's last moments
Saturday 8th: Police sift through more than 3,500 calls from the public, and set up roadblocks to question motorists about a white van and silver Mondeo spotted by Sarah's 13-year-old brother Lee. He, along with her brother Luke, 11, and sister Charlotte, six, make a heartfelt appeal.

Sunday 9th: As the search enters its second week, Sarah's siblings visit the incident room to thank officers for their work so far. Police issue a new picture of Sarah hugging Charlotte.

More homes are searched, including that of TV presenter Des Lynam at Kingston Gorse, near Worthing, as part of the routine hunt.

E-fit of man seen at service station
Thousands respond to a police-issued e-fit
Monday 10th: Police reveal a sighting at Knutsford service station in Cheshire of a schoolgirl answering Sarah's description Officers say it is the "best sighting yet".

Tuesday 11th: Police issue an e-fit of the man seen at Knutsford services and launch a national campaign to find the stranger. The appeal generates a massive response although some calls are hoaxes.

Wednesday 12th: Sarah's favourite pop group, Steps, make an impassioned TV plea for her return. It is revealed the police operation has so far cost 250,000.

Thursday 13th: Sara and Michael Payne are told to "prepare for the worst". Detective Sergeant Sean Scott says the emphasis of the inquiry had shifted and Sarah "may not be found safe and well".

Sara and Michael Payne
Sara and Michael Payne worked closely with officers
Friday 14th: Lee, Luke and Charlotte speak about the family's ordeal. "We are looking after mum and dad by giving them a cuddle, just trying to keep them happy," says Luke.

Saturday 15th: The Payne family returns to the beach where they had been walking shortly before Sarah's disappearance, and renew their appeal for help.

Sunday 16th: Police continue the hunt as the exhausted family rest for a day.

Monday 17th Police find the body of a young girl near Littlehampton, where Sarah vanished.

Tuesday 18th Police confirm that the body of the young girl is that of Sarah Payne. A murder investigation begins.

Thursday 20th Two clues come to light. Police find what they believe is one of Sarah Payne's shoes at the small village of Coolham, a few miles east of where the body was discovered.

Secondly, campers near to where the body was found tell the police that they heard a child's screams on the night that Sarah disappeared.

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories