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EDITIONS
Friday, 30 November, 2001, 16:50 GMT
Sarah trial hears doubts over van
The inside of Roy Whiting's white van
Evidence was seized from Roy Whiting's van
A van belonging to the man accused of killing schoolgirl Sarah Payne could not have been the one seen wheel-spinning away from the field where she was abducted from, a court has heard.

Jurors at Lewes Crown Court have already been told Sarah's brother Lee spotted a white van drive past him as he searched for his sister in fields near her grandparents' home near Littlehampton, West Sussex.

Lee Payne
Sarah's brother Lee said he saw the rear wheels spin
He said the van pulled up at a junction before driving off at speed with its rear wheels spinning.

But motor engineer William Barnett, who examined Roy Whiting's Fiat Ducato van in detail, said it could not be the same vehicle because his was front-wheel drive and its back wheels would not spin.

Mr Whiting, 42, from Littlehampton, denies kidnapping and murdering the eight-year-old in July last year.

Forensic links

The prosecution claims Mr Whiting used his van to abduct Sarah and murder her before dumping her body in a field near Pulborough.

Earlier on Friday the jury heard a second forensic scientist give evidence linking Sarah to Mr Whiting and his van.

Roger Robson compared a number of fibres found in Mr Whiting's van to those traced in clumps of Sarah's hair discovered at the spot where her naked body was dumped.

He also used the latest technology to examine fibres found on Sarah's black shoes - the only item of her clothing ever found by police - as well as socks and a curtain found in Mr Whiting's van.

Mr Robson told the court his findings backed up fibre matches discovered by police forensic expert Raymond Chapman.

Contamination

He said: "It was based on the instruments and one specific fibre type I found on the socks and in the hair.

"I found more characteristics than Mr Chapman found and the more characteristics you find, the greater the chance the fibres originated from the same source."

Roy Whiting
Scientists say fibres link Roy Whiting to Sarah
On Thursday the court heard the evidence tested by the scientists could have been contaminated.

The court heard that several hairs were found on the outer sticky edge of the forensic bags containing hairbrushes from the Payne family home.

Sally O'Neill, QC, defending, said it could not be ruled out that one of the hairs could have been transferred to a red sweatshirt from Mr Whiting's van on which police found a single strand of Sarah's hair.

'Unfortunate'

The chances of the hair not being Sarah's was one in a billion, the court heard.

But on Friday Detective Sergeant Roger Crowley, who helped gather potential DNA evidence, said it was not possible for a hair to penetrate an exhibit bag.

He said: "It was unfortunate. But where two sealed items come together, it is not possible for one fibre to penetrate a sealed bag."

Sarah disappeared from a country lane as she walked back to her grandparents' home in Kingston Gorse, West Sussex, on 1 July last year.

Her body was found on 17 July in a shallow grave near Pulborough, West Sussex.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

Full coverage of the trial

The verdict

Catching a murderer

Protecting children

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
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