Sarah's hair 'was found in suspect's white van'

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The Independent Online

One of Sarah Payne's blonde hairs was discovered on a red sweatshirt inside a white van belonging to the man accused of her murder, Lewes Crown Court was told yesterday.

Fibres from a clown-patterned curtain and the sweatshirt were also discovered on the velcro strap of one of Sarah's shoes ­ the only item of her clothing found ­ that was retrieved from the side of a road close to where her body was dumped, the court heard.

Roy Whiting is accused of bundling Sarah into the back of his Fiat van on 1 July last year before driving her more than 20 miles to bury the body by the A29 near Pulborough, West Sussex.

Prosecutors claim he then replaced the rear doors of the van and pulled out wooden panelling to disguise the fact that it had been used in the kidnapping. The van was seized by police the day after Sarah, of Hersham, Surrey, went missing from a cornfield where she had been playing with her brothers and sister, the court heard.

The first pictures were released yesterday of the inside of the vehicle in which Sarah was allegedly held captive. The 10 photographs included some showing the van's interior after police had taken out more than 300 items, including plastic ties, a three-inch knife, rope, baby oil, a camouflage hat and a roll of masking tape. Officers searching Mr Whiting's flat also removed 433 items including paperwork and clothes.

The court heard yesterday that Mr Whiting made no comment during a police interview when he was asked if he had kidnapped, indecently assaulted and then killed her.

Mr Whiting replied "no comment" to almost every question he was asked during 12 separate interviews carried out within a month of Sarah's disappearance.

The jury heard that Mr Whiting was first arrested the day after Sarah disappeared.

Over the next three days, he was interviewed by Detective Inspector Jeffrey Riley on eight different occasions for more than four hours, the court heard. He was then released on bail. Mr Whiting was arrested for a second time on 31 July, a fortnight after Sarah's decomposing body was discovered by a farm labourer clearing weeds from a field next to Brinsbury Agricultural college.

In court Mr Riley read from the transcript of four further interviews over the next two days with Mr Whiting that lasted for another four-and-a-half hours. At one point during the questioning at Bognor Regis police station, Mr Whiting was asked why he had bought a motor temperature gauge. Mr Whiting had replied: "It wouldn't be for a bloody aeroplane would it? This is bloody stupid."

Mr Riley had shown Mr Whiting a map of the Pulborough area and asked: "Where's the site where Sarah was buried?" Mr Whiting had replied: "I don't know."

Mr Riley said: "What don't you know about? It's interesting you say you don't know. Do you not know where Sarah was buried?" Mr Whiting replied: "By the side of the A29."

Mr Riley said: "Right, you just said you didn't know." Mr Whiting responded: "Not on that map, no."

He was then given a more detailed map. "Does that help?" asked Mr Riley. Mr Whiting replied: "No comment."

Mr Whiting, 42, of Littlehampton, West Sussex, denies murder and kidnap. The case continues today.