Sarah case: Farmer wants cash for damage om Sarah police force

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The Independent Online

The West Sussex farmer in whose wheat field Sarah Payne was last seen alive has demanded compensation from police for damaging his crop as they searched for the murdered girl.

The West Sussex farmer in whose wheat field Sarah Payne was last seen alive has demanded compensation from police for damaging his crop as they searched for the murdered girl.

Paul Langmead has put in a claim with the Sussex force for damage over three fields caused during the search and a reconstruction of the eight-year-old's last known movements using local children. The police said they tried to carry out their operation causing as little disturbance as possible to the crops.

Sarah's body was found five days ago and a police source described the claim as "rather bad timing".

A force spokesman, who dismissed reports that the claim was for £10,000, said: "We have had a claim from a farmer who said we damaged his field. We have written back asking for further clarification of the matter. If we were carrying out an operation where we had to break down a door we could normally pay compensation for that."

Another police source, who had visited the Payne family, said they had reacted with "disbelief" to the claim.

Mr Langmead, who also owns a garden centre near Littlehampton, yesterday issued a statement which said: "I am very upset that someone with Sussex police has seen fit to publicise the fact that I notified the police of damage to crops on my farm in the course of the search for Sarah Payne.

"I and my farm staff have been deeply distressed by the tragic disappearance and murder of Sarah. However, we cannot afford to ignore the fact that, through no fault of the police, many thousands of pounds of damage has been done to our crops during the course of searches for Sarah.

"It was entirely proper that the police should have been notified properly that a quantified claim was submitted in due course so that they or their insurers can make their own assessment of the damage."

Mr Langmead said he and his staff would continue to help police with their inquiries and passed on condolences to the Payne family, including Sarah's grandparents, Terry and Lesley Payne, who live 150 yards from the field.

Police hunting the killer said they had been flooded by calls from victims of sexual abuse. About 2,000 people a day are contacting detectives, and police said a significant number of calls were from abuse victims who were not connected to the inquiry.

Chief Inspector Mike Alderson said the emotional nature of the investigation had triggered the calls, which are among 33,000 taken by detectives since Sarah went missing.

Police are continuing their search of the area around the village of Coolham, West Sussex, where a shoe thought to have belonged to Sarah was found.

She went missing on 1 July as she returned to her grandparents' house at Kingston Gorse, near Littlehampton, where she and her brothers and sister were spending the weekend. Her body was found on Monday 12 miles to the north in undergrowth near the A29 at Pulborough.

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