Murder of Sarah Payne
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (May 2011)|
|Born||Sarah Evelyn Isobel Payne
13 October 1991
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England
|Died||c. 1 July 2000 (aged 8)
|Pulborough, West Sussex,
17 July 2000
|Parents||Michael and Sara Payne|
Sarah Evelyn Isobel Payne (13 October 1991 – c. 1 July 2000) was the victim of a high-profile murder in England in July 2000. Her murderer, Roy Whiting, was convicted in December 2001 and sentenced to life imprisonment. The subsequent investigation became a high profile murder case in the United Kingdom. Following his conviction, Whiting was imprisoned for life and is currently being held in the maximum security Wakefield prison, West Yorkshire.
|Roy William Whiting|
26 January 1959 |
Horsham, West Sussex, England
|Occupation||Car mechanic, delivery worker, building labourer|
|Criminal status||In prison|
|Spouse(s)||Linda Booker (m. 1986–90)|
|Conviction(s)||Indecent assault, theft, dangerous driving, abduction, murder|
Roy William Whiting was born in Horsham hospital in West Sussex on 26 January 1959. He was one of six children born to George and Pamela Whiting, but three of his siblings died in infancy; his only surviving siblings were an older brother and younger sister. He grew up in Langley Green, Crawley. He attended Jordan's primary school, then Ifield secondary school. In June 1986 he married Linda Booker in Ifield, West Sussex. They separated before their son was born in July 1987 and divorced in 1990.
Whiting's first conviction
On 4 March 1995, an eight-year-old girl (who cannot be named for legal reasons) was abducted and sexually assaulted in the Langley Green area of Crawley. Whiting was arrested a few weeks later after a man who knew Whiting came forward after hearing that the abductor's car had been a red Ford Sierra, which matched the description of the car that Whiting had just sold. The vehicle was then traced by police to its new owner and a knife was found hidden in it; the victim had claimed that her abductor had told her he had a knife in his possession.
Three months later, Whiting admitted charges of abduction and indecent assault, and was sentenced to four years in prison. The maximum sentence for the crime was life imprisonment; however, he received a lesser sentence because he had admitted to the crime at an early opportunity, although a psychiatrist who assessed Whiting after his conviction said that he was likely to re-offend once he was released.
Whiting was released from prison in November 1997, having served 2 years and 5 months of his 4-year sentence, and was one of the first people in Britain to go on the sex offenders' register. He had been forced to serve an extra five months in prison before being released on licence as penalty for refusing to undergo a sex offenders rehabilitation course.
Sarah Payne's disappearance
Sarah Payne, who lived in Hersham, Surrey, disappeared on the evening of 1 July 2000 from a cornfield near the home of her paternal grandparents, Terence and Lesley Payne, in Kingston Gorse, West Sussex, England. Payne had been playing with her brothers and sister; aged between five and 13 at the time. A nationwide search commenced within 48 hours, and Payne's parents made numerous television and newspaper appeals for her safe return. On the evening of 2 July 2000, officers from Sussex Police first visited Whiting making inquiries into Payne's disappearance. A number of other suspects were also questioned and at least one other arrest is known to have been made.
On 17 July, a body was found in a field near Pulborough, some 24 km (15 mi) from Kingston Gorse where she had disappeared. The following day, forensic science tests confirmed that the body was Payne's, and Sussex Police began a murder investigation.
Whiting was first questioned about the disappearance of Payne, which had taken place about 8 km (5 mi) from Whiting's place of residence, some 24 hours after she went missing. Whiting was routinely questioned as he had been placed on the Sex Offenders Register. The officers left Whiting, but were suspicious of his lack of concern for Payne, something that some of the worst offenders had shown when questioned in connection with Payne's disappearance. They had questioned him about two rapes in Brighton the previous year and noted that he was calm and co-operative, and had been able to rule him out as a suspect.
When Whiting re-appeared soon after being questioned, he attempted to drive away in his van, but he was stopped by the police and arrested. Whiting spent two days in custody, but a lack of evidence to press any charges led to Whiting's release on bail. Police had found a receipt for fuel from Buck Barn garage on the A24, not far from Coolham where one of Payne's shoes was found. This contradicted his alibi of being at a funfair in Hove at 5:30 pm and then returning to his flat by 9.30 pm on the night that Payne had disappeared.
On 23 July 2000, Whiting stole a Vauxhall Nova and was pursued by police at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) before crashing into a parked vehicle. Whiting was arrested on a charge of dangerous driving. Whiting was remanded in custody until 27 September 2000, when he admitted taking the car and driving dangerously and was jailed for 22 months.
When Whiting began his jail term for the car theft and dangerous driving, detectives carried out forensic tests on his 1988 Fiat Ducato van, which he had bought on 23 June 2000. On 6 February 2001, following a police enquiry, Whiting was charged with the abduction and murder of Sarah Payne.
By 6 February 2001, Sussex Police had enough evidence to press charges against Whiting who appeared at Lewes Crown Court, charged with abduction and murder. Whiting pleaded not guilty to all charges and was remanded in custody, with his trial due to start on 14 November 2001. He was still serving his sentence for the motoring offences at this stage.
On 14 November 2001 at Lewes Crown Court, the jury heard from several witnesses. The key witnesses included Payne's oldest brother who had seen a 'scruffy-looking man with yellowish teeth' drive by. Whiting had not been selected in an identity parade. One of Payne's shoes was found by a member of the public in a country lane and forensic tests had found fibres from Whiting's van on the shoe. This was the only item of Payne's clothing to be recovered. A strand of blonde hair on a T-shirt was found in Whiting's van. DNA test established there was a one-in-a-billion chance of it belonging to anyone other than Payne.
On 12 December 2001, after a four-week trial before Mr Justice Curtis and a jury, Whiting was convicted of the abduction and murder of Payne and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial judge said it was a rare case in which a life sentence should mean life.
After Whiting was convicted, his previous convictions were revealed. There were renewed calls for the government to allow controlled public access to the sex offender's register, although the Home Office commented the day after Whiting's conviction that such a system would be unworkable and run the risk of driving paedophiles "underground" as well as putting them in danger of vigilante attacks.
This case is also notable for the extensive use of forensic sciences in establishing the prosecution case against Whiting. Twenty forensic experts from a variety of fields were employed during the inquiry, including entomology, pathology, geology, archaeology, environmental profiling and oil/lubricant analysis. It has been estimated[by whom?] that the investigation involved one thousand personnel and cost more than £2 million.
On 24 November 2002, Home Secretary David Blunkett ordered that Roy Whiting must serve a minimum of 50 years in prison. This made him ineligible for parole until 2051, meaning that he would have to live to be at least 92 before parole could be considered; this was in effect an agreement with the trial judge's recommendation of a whole life tariff. Within 48 hours of the ruling being made, the Law Lords and the European Court of Human Rights had ruled in favour of another convicted murderer (Anthony Anderson) who was challenging the right of politicians to decide how long a murderer must spend in prison before being considered for parole.
In June 2004, it was confirmed that Whiting would be applying to the Court of Appeal for a new minimum term to be set. On 9 June 2010, Whiting's appeal resulted in his 50-year jail term being reduced by 10 years by a High Court judge. Whiting's lawyers argued that the 50-year tariff, imposed just before the power of Home Secretaries to determine how long prisoners sentenced to life should serve lapsed, was politically motivated; the decision was also made at a time when the government was under fire from the public and media over a firefighters strike. Mr Justice Simon said that under 2010 sentencing guidelines, Whiting may have received a whole life tariff, but apparently arrived at the 40-year term by retroactively applying guidelines from the time of the original sentencing. Whiting is now serving a 40-year minimum term, which is set to keep him in prison until at least 2041, when he will be 82. Payne's mother, Sara, was present and said she was "disappointed" by the decision and "life should mean life".
The campaign for Sarah's Law was spearheaded by the News of the World newspaper, which began in July 2000 in response to the murder of Sarah Payne. Sarah Payne's parents backed up the campaign as they were sure that a child sex offender had been responsible for their daughter's death. Their belief was proved correct 17 months later when Roy Whiting was found guilty of killing Sarah Payne, and it was revealed that he already had a conviction for abducting and indecently assaulting an eight-year-old girl.
The aim of the campaign was for the government to allow controlled access to the Sex Offenders Register, so parents with young children could know if a child sex-offender was living in their area. Sarah Payne's mother has always insisted that such a law would have saved her daughter's life.
A modified scheme where parents can enquire about a named individual was introduced in four pilot areas of England and Wales in September 2008. In August 2010 the Home Office announced that after proving successful, the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme would be extended to cover the whole of England and Wales by spring 2011.
Debate over effectiveness
There has been considerable debate over the effectiveness of Megan's Law, a similar law passed in the US state of California and by implication, Sarah's Law. Issues raised have included:
- The increased stereotyping of those on the sex offenders register. This may lead to a reduction in the ability of offenders to find housing and employment, thus leading to their being ostracised and therefore being more likely to reoffend.
- The increased risk of sex offenders avoiding registration with offender management services. In the USA, this figure stands at around 80%, compared with 97% in the UK. It has been suggested that the risk of harm mentioned above deters offenders from registering.
- The nature of offending is seriously mis-represented by "Sarah's Law". Research suggests that reoffending rates over a six-year period run at around 8.5%. Thus, it may be suggested that reoffending is not the problem that is suggested by some commentators such as former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley who claimed a 90% recidivism rate.
- Relationships of offenders to victims. In terms of rape, 83% of attackers are known to their victims and 54% are partners or former partners. These statistics suggest that "stranger danger" has been exaggerated.
Payne's mother, Sara Payne, has subsequently written a book, Sara Payne: A Mother's Story, about her daughter's murder and the aftermath, including her campaign for Sarah's Law. The book was published in 2004.
In July 2001, it was reported that Payne's parents received £11,000 compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. The offer was described as a "sick joke" and "derisory", even though it was the maximum CICA could offer by law.
In July 2011 it was revealed that Sara Payne had been among those targeted in the News International phone hacking scandal. Payne refused to believe it, since they had been so helpful in championing Sarah's Law. She even wrote an editorial in the newspaper's final edition. Investigators initially thought she was not hacked because her name did not come up in records. However, personal details relating to her were found that were attributed to another suspected victim. Sara's phone that was hacked was gifted to her by the News of the World's editor at the time of the murder, Rebekah Brooks.
Attacks in prison
On 4 August 2002, Whiting was attacked with a razor by another prisoner while fetching hot water at Wakefield Prison. Convicted killer Rickie Tregaskis (serving life imprisonment with a 25-year recommended minimum for the 1997 murder of a disabled man in Cornwall) was found guilty of carrying out the slashing which left Whiting with a six-inch scar on his right cheek. Tregaskis received a six-year sentence (to run concurrently alongside his life sentence) after being found guilty on a wounding charge relating to the attack on Roy Whiting. This will not mean that he will have to serve any extra time in prison if the Parole Board decides that he can be freed on life licence.
In July 2011 Whiting was again attacked in prison, this time stabbed in the eye. No charge was pressed by Whiting and consequently a police investigation into the assault was not undertaken. Whiting's injuries were not life-threatening.
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