Thursday 21 November 2019

'It was horror film stuff' - Sarah Payne's family speak out over her abduction 17 years ago

Sarah Payne was murdered by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting 10 years ago
Sarah Payne was murdered by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting 10 years ago
Sarah Payne was abducted and murdered by a convicted sex offender
The parents of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, Michael and Sara, and her siblings Luke (left), Lee and Charlotte Credit: PA
Roy Whiting was found with pictures of Sarah Payne in his prison cell

Ben Mitchell

The two brothers of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne have described their guilt at not being able to save their sister on the day she vanished.

Speaking in public for the first time since the eight-year-old was abducted and murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting, Luke and Lee Payne said she ran ahead of them and sister Charlotte on July 1, 2000.

In an interview for a Channel 5 documentary, they recalled how she dipped through a gap leading to a road on the edge of the field in Kingston Gorse, West Sussex, and was not seen alive again.

She was then snatched by Whiting, who is serving life imprisonment for her murder, who smiled and waved at Lee as he drove away before the siblings could raise the alarm that she was missing.

The parents of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, Michael and Sara, and her siblings Luke (left), Lee and Charlotte Credit: PA
The parents of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, Michael and Sara, and her siblings Luke (left), Lee and Charlotte Credit: PA

Luke Payne, who was then 12 years old, told the interviewers the thought that he could have saved her, but did not, "eats you up inside".

He said he is haunted by what happened: "I don't get a lot of sleep. I dread the night, because it's just you and your thoughts."

He told how his father, Michael, who is now dead, bought a sawn-off shotgun and talked to Lee and him about what he would do if Whiting was found not guilty

He added that when he sees Sarah's friends now: "I always wonder where she would be ...what she would be doing ... whatever she would have been doing, she would have shined. (sic)"

Roy Whiting was found with pictures of Sarah Payne in his prison cell
Roy Whiting was found with pictures of Sarah Payne in his prison cell

Lee Payne, who was then 13 and the oldest of the four children, remembers seeing Whiting's van drive past the field and thinks he did a U-turn to snatch Sarah and drive off.

He saw Whiting at the wheel and describes him as looking like "a real dodgy person" - who smiled and waved at him seconds after the abduction.

Lee said he was "literally 30 seconds, if that, behind her", but when he could not see her he thought she was hiding because "she'd left in a huff".

He described the way Whiting smiled at him "was very uneasy - didn't make me feel comfortable at all" and added that "when it comes to feeling guilt about the situation, I did for a few years beat myself up ... that if I ran faster ... I might have caught up with her".

He also said: "There's never going to be a day when you're going to turn round and be like, 'I'm over that now'. Because that's just going to happen."

Sarah's sister, Charlotte, who was five years old at the time, said she suffered anxiety attacks as she grew up and sometimes feels guilt about what happened, and asks: "Why was it her and not me?"

Mother Sara Payne describes seeing Whiting in court for the first time and realising he "wasn't a monster".

She said: "And when I saw him in the court for the first time, I realised, that he really wasn't a monster, and he had no place in my mind, or my, my head.

"It was then that I realised, he's just a sad, lonely person that actually goes after children because he couldn't have a relationship with an adult.

"And it sort of really hit home then, what I'd allowed him to take up far too much of my mind space, and I think it was at that moment, I thought no. No more."

:: Sarah Payne: A Mother's Story will be screened on Channel 5 on Wednesday at 9pm.

PA Media

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