Sarah Payne's shoe gives hope of link to killer

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Detectives hunting the killer of Sarah Payne yesterday announced what they said was a "significant" breakthrough after one of the eight-year-old's shoes was discovered. Police believe it could hold vital clues.

Detectives hunting the killer of Sarah Payne yesterday announced what they said was a "significant" breakthrough after one of the eight-year-old's shoes was discovered. Police believe it could hold vital clues.

The black, right-footed, size 13 shoe was found in the village of Coolham, West Sussex, about four miles from Pulborough, where Sarah's naked body was discovered on Monday morning. The shoe is now being examined by forensic science experts in the hope that it could hold clues about the identity of her killer.

Detective Superintendent Peter Kennet, one of the senior investigating officers involved in the case, said: "Certainly, DNA could confirm that it is Sarah's shoe. There is the possibility of fibre transfer from someone that has been in contact with it. That is a big hope for us."

Sarah's body was discovered on Monday morning by a farm worker walking in fields near Brinsbury agricultural college at Pulborough. The body was no more than 10 yards from the A29. She had disappeared 17 days earlier after playing in a wheatfield with her brothers and sister near their grandparents' house at Kingston Gorse, near Littlehampton.

A post-mortem examination enabled police to say that Sarah had been murdered although they have so far been unable to specify the precise cause of death.

Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Yeo, of Sussex Police, said the discovery of the shoe was "very significant", but said police needed to trace Sarah's other shoe, her dark blue Fred Perry-style dress, and her underwear.

"In evidential terms I suppose the one thing I would be looking for that would be more significant would be the dress and the underwear," he said.

"We are still looking for the blue dress and there is another shoe to be found."

Police said the shoe was found by a woman on Tuesday evening in a hedge 200 yards south of the A272. Officers said it looked as if it had been casually discarded with no effort made to conceal it.

Superintendent Phil Clarke, who is heading the search, said it was possible it could have been thrown from a vehicle or placed at the scene by someone on foot. "It would appear that it has been discovered in a hedge and there has been no attempt to conceal it," he said.

The announcement of the discovery came just hours after a group of campers said they heard a little girl's screams three miles from where Sarah's body was found, the night she was abducted. The two young couples, who said they were concerned about the screams but did not attach sufficient importance to them, came forward after realising their campsite at Fittleworth was only about three miles from Pulborough. Police have taken statements from them.

The campers responded to an appeal by Sarah's parents, Sara and Michael Payne, for information that might help trace their daughter's killer.

Police continued to search an area close to where the shoe was found and said they would extend the hunt tomorrow to include more minor roads where a vehicle may have pulled over.

Over this weekend they plan to carry out witness checks on the A29 near Pulborough and more roads are to be closed while searches are carried out. Mr Yeo said detectives would make further searches at addresses throughout the county.

He said officers were still interested in hearing from anyone with information about a white Transit-style van, doors from that type of van, or wood panelling which might have been removed from such a van.

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