Sarah Payne murder suspect 'changed his appearance after girl went missing'

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The Independent Online

The man accused of murdering eight-year-old Sarah Payne transformed his appearance the day after she disappeared to look "steam cleaned", Lewes Crown Court was told on Friday.

Terence Heath, a builder who employed the accused man on three occasions, said Roy Whiting was normally "very scruffy, very dirty, unshaven. He never smelled but always looked very untidy and dirty. His clothes were dirty." But when he met Mr Whiting outside his flat in Littlehampton, West Sussex, on the evening of 2 July there had been a transformation. Mr Heath told the jury: "He was very smart and very clean, steam cleaned. His general appearance was scruffy, very rough looking. This time his appearance was one of cleanliness. I had never seen him looking so smart before."

He also noticed that Mr Whiting, who said he was unable to work at the time because of a "twisted gut", had changed the rear doors in his white van, installing doors with windows.

Sarah went missing after playing with her brothers and sister in a field at East Preston, West Sussex, on 1 July last year. Her body was found in a shallow grave near Pulborough, West Sussex, two weeks later. Mr Whiting denies both kidnap and murder.

Mr Heath was asked by Sally O'Neill QC, for the defence, what Mr Whiting had been wearing on the night they met. Mr Heath said dark trousers and a light top. Ms O'Neill said his recollection may have been affected by newspaper reports of the case and that a statement he made to police on 26 July may have been influenced by his "knowledge of what the police were interested in". The trial has been told that Mr Whiting was wearing a dirty T-shirt and muddy stained jeans when he was arrested by police on 2 July, shortly after he met Mr Heath in the street.

Earlier Dr Ewan Gerrard, who examined Mr Whiting at Chichester police station at 3.30am on 3 July, described him as unshaven with grey hair and ingrained dirt on his hands and under his nails.

Dr Gerrard told the court he found three scratches on Whiting's body, one on his chest and one on each arm, all of which were fairly recent.

The trial continues.