Sunday 22 September 2019

'She was a wonderful mum' - Tributes paid to woman (21) found dead at campsite

Undated handout photo of Becky Sheppard (left) with her friend Sarah Clayton (right), who was found dead at a campsite in Sussex on Sunday. Photo: Becky Sheppard/PA Wire
Undated handout photo of Becky Sheppard (left) with her friend Sarah Clayton (right), who was found dead at a campsite in Sussex on Sunday. Photo: Becky Sheppard/PA Wire Newsdesk Newsdesk

A 21-year-old woman who police believe was murdered at a campsite was a "wonderful mum" and a "brilliant best friend".

Friends paid tribute to Sarah Clayton, who was found dead in a tent at Buckle Caravan Park in Seaford, East Sussex, on Sunday morning.

A 28-year-old man from Littlehampton is still in custody after being arrested on suspicion of murder, police said on Monday afternoon.

Her best friend Becky Sheppard told Press Association: "We've known each other for eight years and have been inseparable. She was my best friend.

"I will always remember she was a real party girl.

"She was always happy and always made sure everyone else was happy and having fun.

"She was the best mum, a wonderful mum, to her little girl who is five now.

"I found out yesterday morning that she had died. It is awful.

"I knew she had gone camping there with her partner and when I saw the news that the body of a 21-year-old woman had been found I had this instinct. I just knew it was her.

"No-one actually seems to know what happened to her yet. We all just pray she did not suffer."

Miss Sheppard said they met at The Regis secondary school in Bognor Regis before Miss Clayton studied at Chichester College and worked at Butlins.

The cleaner from Yapton, near Arundel, West Sussex, became engaged to Chris Cole a month ago and recently moved in with her fiance, Miss Sheppard added.

In April the couple announced the news online, sharing pictures with friends and expressing their love for each other.

Miss Sheppard, 21, said: "It is so sad, they only got engaged a month ago and they were so happy.

"They were in the early stages of planning the wedding.

"They had gone to the campsite for a break because it was somewhere they would always go together."

She said she has set up a memorial Facebook page in Miss Clayton's memory to encourage friends to share tributes and is planning a trip to her favourite pub in her honour, adding: "That's what Sarah would have wanted. She was never sad and she never let on about her emotions. She wouldn't have wanted her friends to be sad."

A post mortem examination was due to be carried out on Monday afternoon to establish the cause of death, a police spokesman said.

Officers have continued to appeal for anyone who attended a 50th birthday at the campsite over the weekend to come forward as well as dog walkers and other passers-by who may have information.

Detective Chief Inspector Emma Heater, of the Sussex and Surrey major crime team, who is leading the investigation, said: "Although we're not looking for anyone else in connection with Sarah's death we are still seeking witnesses or anyone with information that may assist us.

"In particular we'd like to talk to dog-walkers or other pedestrians who used a footpath through the site during the early hours of Sunday, and people who were there to attend a 50th birthday party over the weekend. They may have seen or heard something unusual or suspicious that we need to know about."

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting Operation Cobblestone.

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