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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 16:00 GMT
Whiting guilty of Sarah murder
Roy Whiting
Roy Whiting snatched Sarah from a country lane
Roy Whiting has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of the kidnap and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne.

He was convicted of both charges by a jury of nine men and three women at Lewes Crown Court, after a trial lasting almost four weeks.

This doesn't make us happy but justice has been done - Sarah can rest in peace now

Sara and Michael Payne
There were cries of delight in the packed courtroom as the verdicts were read out on Wednesday, listened to by Sarah's parents and brothers Lee and Luke.

As soon as the unanimous verdicts were declared, the court heard details of Whiting's previous conviction for the kidnap and indecent assault of a nine-year-old girl in 1995.

Trial judge Mr Justice Richard Curtis said it was a rare case when he would recommend that a life sentence should mean life.

Outside court Sarah's parents Sara and Michael said: "This doesn't make us happy but justice has been done.

"Sarah can rest in peace now."

'Absolute menace'

They also called on the government to change the law to ensure it does not happen again.

Sarah Payne in a family photograph
Sarah disappeared while playing with her siblings
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.

Whiting, 42, formerly of St Augustine Road, Littlehampton, West Sussex, had denied having anything to do with her.

But Mr Justice Curtis said he believed Whiting was "an evil man" and "a cunning and glib liar".

"You are and will remain an absolute menace to any little girl," he told Whiting.

"You're every parent's and grandparent's nightmare come true.

"I recommend you be kept in prison for the rest of your life so that no further child can be added to the list of your victims."

Sarah's mother Sara said: "Let's make sure this stops happening time and time again.

"People are being let out of prison when everybody concerned knows that this is going to happen again."

Abnormal desires

The judge said a psychiatrist who saw Whiting after his 1995 attack warned he was a high risk repeat offender.

He said Sarah's tragic and appalling murder had proved the psychiatrist right.

Roy Whiting during a police interview
Whiting's reaction when he was charged with the murder
"It is important in ordinary life that children are allowed to have some freedom by their parents and others to learn self-reliance and enjoy their childhood... You exploited this for your own abnormal sexual desires."

The judge said he was satisfied Whiting was out hunting for children and said he had turned his van into an "moving prison".

During the trial, prosecuting lawyer Timothy Langdale QC told the jury there was "compelling" evidence against Whiting.


A strand of Sarah's hair had been found on Whiting's sweatshirt, and fibres from his van were found on her hair and shoe.

Items found by police in Whiting's van included a length of rope, two plastic ties, a knife and a bottle of baby oil.

Roy Whiting's van
Fibres from his van were found on Sarah's shoe
The van also contained a receipt for diesel from a garage near the spot where Sarah's body was found, close to the A29 near Pulborough.

Whiting had lied about his movements to police, Mr Langdale said, as he had denied being anywhere near the scene.

Mr Langdale questioned three scratch marks found on Whiting.

And he said Whiting had been seen grinning and driving off just as Sarah's brothers were looking for her.

Whiting took the stand himself for two days during the trial.

He told the court he had changed doors on the back of his van and stripped out wood panelling on the same day as Sarah was kidnapped.

But he told the jury: "It wasn't me."

'On the prowl'

Sarah's parents, Sara and Michael Payne, had been present for most of the trial.

Mr Langdale told the jury Sarah was snatched after a day out with her family.

Sarah, her brothers Lee, 13, Luke, 11, and her five-year-old sister, Charlotte, had separated from their parents and grandparents after a walk to the seaside, he said.

They were playing in a nearby cornfield when Sarah slipped through a hedge into a country lane.

Mr Langdale said Whiting, who had been driving around "on the prowl" for a young child or children, then grabbed her.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"A 17 month journey for justice has ended"
Sara Payne
"Justice has been done - Sarah can rest in peace now"
The BBC's Robert Hall
"The tragic story of Whiting's young victim moved all who heard it"
The BBC's Niall Dickson
"Roy Whiting was an anonymous lodger with a dark secret"
Full coverage of the trial

The verdict

Catching a murderer

Protecting children


See also:

12 Dec 01 | UK Politics
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