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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 22:07 GMT
I was nowhere near Sarah - Whiting
Roy Whiting
Roy Whiting denies the charges against him
The man accused of kidnapping and murdering schoolgirl Sarah Payne has told how he spent the day she disappeared drifting from park to park.

Roy Whiting, 42, told the court he took the stand at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday because he wanted "to tell the truth to the jury".

Mr Whiting, of Littlehampton, West Sussex, denies the charges against him.

Sarah (right) with sister Charlotte
Sarah (right) with her sister Charlotte
He admitted that the day after Sarah disappeared from a country lane he had "pressure-washed" the inside of the rear of his van.

And he told the court he had gone for a drive and drifted from one park to another on Saturday 1 July last year - the day Sarah disappeared - because he was bored.

Mr Whiting said he stopped in Shoreham-by-Sea, moved on to a boating lake nearby and along the A259 to Hove, stopping at two parks and a funfair until approximately 1910 or 1930 BST.

Timothy Langdale QC, prosecuting, questioned whether it was just a coincidence that Mr Whiting had visited locations where children could be expected to be found, in a white van with a compartment.

'Memory blank'

The prosecution claims Mr Whiting used his white van to abduct Sarah near her grandparents' home in Kingston Gorse at around 1930 BST.

But Mr Whiting said he had not been to the Kingston Gorse area on the day Sarah disappeared or the A29 where the eight-year-old's naked body was discovered in a shallow grave.

In cross-examination Mr Whiting said that he had suffered a "memory blank" about what he had been doing later on 1 July as he had "a lot on his mind".

[The police] were badgering me and hassling me

Roy Whiting
Mr Langdale said to him: "The suggestion is that the man who abducted Sarah, and I suggest it was you, was someone who was out on the prowl, looking for a child.

"Why were you going to a funfair? You did not like rides so what were you doing there."

Mr Langdale also said Mr Whiting had a good knowledge of the area where Sarah was kidnapped and would have known there was a rope swing where children congregated.

He questioned the presence of rope and cable ties in the back of the van and asked if the knife that was found there had been used to "threaten or frighten a child".

Defendant's 'lie'

Mr Whiting was asked by Mr Langdale why he had not told police about visiting a petrol station near Pulborough on the day Sarah was snatched.

The court heard a receipt for diesel from the garage later proved the defendant had lied about his movements on 1 July.

Roy Whiting's van
Mr Whiting spent the day drifting in his van
Mr Whiting earlier told the court he had changed the doors on the back of his van and stripped out wood panelling on the same day as Sarah was kidnapped.

The doors that were originally on the Fiat Ducato van did not have windows while those Mr Whiting replaced them with did.

The court previously heard evidence that on the day Sarah was abducted, a van seen in the area did not have any windows in its rear doors.

Police visit

Mr Langdale asked Mr Whiting why he had not told police about disposing of the wood panelling or washing his van.

He said: "The reason you were worried was because Sarah Payne had been in the back of your van."

Mr Whiting told the court how on 2 July last year, the day after Sarah vanished, police visited him at his Littlehampton flat and questioned him about his movements on the previous day.

"They were badgering me and hassling me."

He said he might have been wearing a white T-shirt on 1 July, and took officers to his van to show them the garment.

Three scratches

The court heard that police noted the T-shirt was dirty the first time they saw it but when asking for it again as they arrested Mr Whiting that evening they saw a freshly-washed garment.

Mr Whiting was examined by a doctor who discovered three scratches on his chest and arms.

He said: "I may have got them while taking the wood out of the van."

The trial continues.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy at Lewes Crown Court
"He said he'd chosen to give evidence because he wanted the jury to hear what he had to say"
Full coverage of the trial

The verdict

Catching a murderer

Protecting children


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