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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 16:13 GMT
Fibre evidence needs 'leap of faith'
Court sketch of Sally O'Neill summing up, with the judge in the foreground and Mr Whiting centre
Sally O'Neill QC said evidence was "not compelling"
Fibre evidence said to link Roy Whiting to the murder of Sarah Payne needs "a leap of faith" to be believed, his defence has said.

Barrister Sally O'Neill QC told the jury there was no evidence linking the eight-year-old schoolgirl with her alleged killer.

And she said they had to be sure forensic findings were based on scientific fact, not opinion.

Mr Whiting, 42, formerly of St Augustine Road, Little Hampton, West Sussex, denies abducting and murdering the eight-year-old.

Different sources

Giving her closing speech, Ms O'Neill said the jury should not rely on speculative theories about what happened to Sarah.

Is this evidence just another piece in the jigsaw which is fitted around by the prosecution who are trying to push it into place

Sally O'Neill

She said fibres found on Sarah's shoe and hair could have been picked up from dozens of different sources.

These fibres were not a perfect match with ones found in Mr Whiting's van, she said, calling them "indistinguishable and not identical".

It was "impossible" to rule out contamination regarding the strand of Sarah's hair said to have been found on Mr Whiting's sweatshirt.

"You simply cannot be sure how it got there," she said, urging jurors to disregard it totally.

She claimed forensic expert Ray Chapman had dismissed the likelihood of contamination because he was being "unscientific" and was on the prosecution's side.

His evidence was "simply not enough", she said.

'Not relevant'

Ms O'Neill raised other questions over forensic evidence against Mr Whiting.

She questioned scratch marks found on the accused, saying one was two days old and not relevant.

These are not the compelling pieces of evidence the prosecution hold them up to be

Sally O'Neill

And she cast doubt over witnesses who claimed to have seen a van parked near where Sarah's body was found.

She asked the jury to be objective and fair, telling them: "If you are not sure you must say so and you say so by saying not guilty."

She said the prosecution case rested on fibres.

"They kept digging and digging and digging for 18 months and all they came up with ... is fibres."

She told Lewes Crown Court there was no evidence to link items found in Mr Whiting's van to Sarah's death.

ID parade

Sarah went missing on 1 July last year after playing near her grandparents' home in Kingston Gorse, West Sussex. Her naked body was found 16 days later.

Roy Whiting
Roy Whiting denies the charges against him

Ms O'Neill questioned why the defendant would have left a receipt for diesel in his van, had he thought it would place him near the spot where the body was found.

And she said if Mr Whiting was guilty, he would have thrown away a shirt which matched a description by Sarah's brother Lee, of one worn by a van driver near the scene of Sarah's disappearance.

She said Lee, now 14, had failed to pick out Mr Whiting in an identity parade held shortly after Sarah went missing.

And she said Mr Whiting's decision to give evidence proved he wanted to tell the truth.

She said he had volunteered the fact that he had washed out the floor of his van on Sunday afternoon.

"He told you something which nobody knew, nobody suspected, and nobody had even mentioned," she said.

Earlier, Ms O'Neill told the jury not see Mr Whiting as a "monster".

"There is a danger that anybody even charged with this sort of offence, never mind convicted of it, is at risk of being demonised in some sort of way," she said.

The trial continues.

The BBC's Jon Brain
"Sally O'Neill QC described the death as a tragedy of unimaginable dimensions"
Full coverage of the trial

The verdict

Catching a murderer

Protecting children


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