Parents lay flowers at spot where body found

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The Independent Online

The parents of the murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne laid flowers yesterday at the spot in a Sussex field where their daughter's body was found.

The parents of the murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne laid flowers yesterday at the spot in a Sussex field where their daughter's body was found.

Michael and Sara Payne, accompanied by Sarah's grandfather, Terry, laid six long-stemmed pink lilies - the girl's favourite flowers - and an arrangement of carnations and lilacs, after police confirmed that the body discovered on Monday morning was that of the missing girl. Police said she had been murdered and stripped before being left in undergrowth close to the A29 at Pulborough.

Chief Inspector Mike Alderson, a spokesman for Sussex Police, said Sarah's parents and grandfather spent 20 minutes at the location, 12 miles from where the eight-year-old went missing on 1 July. "They felt as part of their coming to terms with what has happened, as part of the grieving process, that they wanted to come and look at the location," he said.

"They came up with the family liaison officer and they took some time here. You cannot imagine how terrible it is for them. Obviously it was very emotional."

The visit, at around noon yesterday, came after police formally confirmed to Sarah's parents that it was her body that had been found by a farm worker walking in field close to Brinsbury College on Monday morning.

Detectives again focused attention on a white Ford Transit-style van spotted in the area where she was abducted. Senior officers appealed for information about work being carried out on the interior of such a vehicle.

Sarah had disappeared after playing with her brothers and sister in a wheatfield close to their grandparents' house at Kingston Gorse, near Littlehampton, Sussex.

Police officers continued to scour the fields and hedgerows near where the body was found, looking for the blue dress and black shoes that Sarah had been wearing, and further tests were being carried out on samples taken during the post-mortem examination by the Home Office pathologist Vesna Djurovic.

Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Yeo declined to say whether the little girl had been sexually assaulted, though he said a number of lines of inquiry were being followed. Senior police sources said that the post-mortem examination had not identified any obvious injuries, though they were certain that Sarah had been murdered by a "physical attack".

Mr Yeo said that people who had previously been arrested and released were due to return on police bail, but that there had not been any more arrests as a result of the discovery of the body. Police had taken a white Ford Transit-style van from the home of one of two men arrested as part of the inquiry.

Mr Yeo said it was vital that anyone who had seen a white Ford Transit-style van in the Kingston area between 4pm and 8pm on 1 July contact police immediately. He extended his appeal to cover sightings on the A29 over the entire first weekend of July, and also appealed to anyone who may have information about alterations being carried out on such a van, possibly in the Littlehampton area, to come forward.

Mr Yeo said: "I think the parents have always been in a sense as pragmatic as they are strong, that there was a possibility that they would face this scenario. And in some ways it's better facing it almost this way than a process of elimination. In that respect they took a very similar line to ourselves, which was this was a missing person inquiry until there was reason for it not to be, and there is reason for it not to be now."