Sarah 'was killed soon after abduction'

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Police launched a murder inquiry yesterday after confirming that the body of the young girl discovered in a Sussex field was that of Sarah Payne, a missing schoolgirl.

Police launched a murder inquiry yesterday after confirming that the body of the young girl discovered in a Sussex field was that of Sarah Payne, a missing schoolgirl.

While officers refused to reveal details, they said a post-mortem examination revealed she had been killed in a "physical attack" and not with a weapon. She had also been stripped naked, though police declined to say whether she had been sexually assaulted.

Yesterday morning, as Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Yeo made the announcement at a press conference, he called for a moment's silence in memory of Sarah and out of respect for her parents. "As a result of a post-mortem this is now a murder inquiry," he said. "The information is that Sarah was probably placed in that field on the first weekend of July.

"She was unclothed; the clothing we have yet to find. That's what we are looking for in the field. The parents have been told everything - well, everything we know."

Sarah's body was found on Monday in undergrowth alongside the A29 near Pulborough, 12 miles north of where she went missing on July 1. She had been playing with her brothers and sister in a field close to their grandparents' house near Littlehampton, Sussex.

The police said officers were continuing to scour the fields near where the body was found, and further tests were being done on samples taken from the post-mortem. Mr Yeo said there had not yet been any arrests since the body was found.

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