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EDITIONS
Monday, 19 November, 2001, 12:30 GMT
Last moments with murdered Sarah
Sara Payne and her husband Michael
Sara and Michael Payne arrive at court
The family of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne have told a court about the last moments they saw her alive.

Parents Sara and Michael Payne, grandmother Lesley and brother Lee, 13, gave evidence to Lewes Crown Court on Monday in the trial of Roy Whiting, the man accused of killing the eight-year-old.

Mr Whiting, 42, formerly of St Augustin Road, Littlehampton, West Sussex, denies kidnap and murder.

Mrs Payne told Lewes Crown Court on Monday that Sarah, who went missing at Kingston Gorse, West Sussex, on July 1, 2000, was warned not to speak to strangers.

Sarah's body was found 17 days later in what the prosecution claim was a shallow grave dug by Mr Whiting after he murdered her.

Always my last words to them were please stay together

Sara Payne
Sarah's mother

Mrs Payne looked close to tears as she described her last sighting of Sarah, when she walked off from her four children as they played on the beach.

The Payne family, from Hersham, Surrey, were staying at Sarah's grandmother Lesley's house at the time.

Recalling the final day of her daughter's life, Mrs Payne, said that after their arrival, the family had eaten shepherd's pie together, which was one of the children's favourite meals.

At about 6pm, they all went to the beach, where Sara and Michael left the children to go and visit two houses being renovated by Sara's father-in-law.

She said: "They asked if they could stay on the beach and it was such a lovely evening that we decided that they could.
Sarah Payne
Sarah Payne knew about 'stranger danger'

"Always my last words to them were please stay together.

"As we were walking along, I looked back and they were playing on the beach."

On returning to the grandparents' house, Mrs Payne noticed Lesley and her youngest daughter, Charlotte, were waiting in Peak Lane to tell them that Sarah had gone missing.

Vigilant

Mrs Payne said that they had all searched the fields and then the village before coming back and calling the police.

Timothy Langdale QC, prosecuting, asked Mrs Payne if Sarah had been warned about "stranger danger".

Mrs Payne replied: "Always. We have always been very, very vigilant."

She said Sarah's school was regularly visited by a policeman and that the youngster had been aware of the dangers of speaking to strangers.

The court watched a video recording of a police interview with Sara Payne's eldest son Lee, recorded on July 2 last year.

The teenager told detectives how Sarah ran from a cornfield where all four children were playing hide and seek.

And how he became suspicious when he saw a white van in the area.

He said: "I ran after her but I could not see her. I ran back home and asked my Nan if she had seen her.

"There was this white van which pulled out. I could not see who was inside.

"It looked a little bit suspicious."

Sara's parents gave written statements that were read out in court.

The trial continues.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"Sarah sat just a few feet from Roy Whiting"
See also:

16 Nov 01 | England
16 Nov 01 | England
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