Roy Whiting

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Roy Whiting
Born (1959-01-26) 26 January 1959 (age 59)
Crawley, West Sussex, England
OccupationCar mechanic, delivery worker, building labourer
Criminal statusIncarcerated
Spouse(s)Linda Booker
Conviction(s)Indecent assault, theft, dangerous driving, abduction, murder
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment (minimum 40 years, not eligible for parole until 2041)

Roy William Whiting (born 26 January 1959) is an English convicted child murderer, from West Sussex. In December 2001, he was convicted of the abduction and murder of Sarah Payne, a crime which occurred in West Sussex in July 2000. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and is set to remain in prison until at least until 2041 when he becomes eligible for parole.

Early life[edit]

Whiting was born in Crawley, Sussex, in January 1959 and grew up in the town with his parents, who divorced during the 1970s. He had five siblings but three of them died in infancy; his surviving siblings were an older brother and younger sister.

He left Ifield Community College in 1975 with no academic qualifications and over the next few years found employment in several jobs, including working as a delivery man for the local Co-operative store and later working as a car mechanic and paint sprayer at a local garage. He was also involved in banger racing.

In 1986, he married Linda Booker. They separated the following year just before the birth of their son, and were divorced in 1990.

1995 conviction and imprisonment[edit]

On 4 March 1995, Whiting abducted and sexually assaulted an eight-year-old girl in the Langley Green district of Crawley. He 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 with a Bart Simpson sticker on one of its windows, identical to the vehicle that Whiting had just sold. Three months later, he admitted the 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 as credit for admitting to the crime and sparing his victim the ordeal of having to give evidence in court. A psychiatrist who assessed Whiting after his conviction said that he was likely to re-offend once he was released, and could possibly kill his next victim.


Whiting was released from prison in November 1997, having served just over half of his four-year sentence, and was one of the first people in Britain to go on the newly-launched sex offenders register. He was scheduled to have been released from prison in June of that year, but had to serve an additional five months in prison for refusing to take part in a rehabilitation scheme for convicted sex offenders.

Whiting, knowing that he would not be welcomed back in Crawley, moved some 25 miles (40 km) away to Littlehampton on the West Sussex coast, where he rented a flat in St Augustine Road.

Two years later, he moved into another flat in the same road. On 2 July 2000, officers from Sussex Police visited his flat making inquiries into the disappearance of Sarah Payne, who had gone missing in the Kingston Gorse area of Littlehampton the previous evening several miles from Whiting's flat.

Sarah Payne murder investigation[edit]

Whiting was questioned as part of an investigational routine as he had been placed on the sex offenders’ register. The officers left Whiting's flat but were suspicious of his lack of concern for Sarah - something that some of the worst offenders had shown when questioned in connection with Sarah's disappearance.[citation needed] When Whiting re-appeared soon after and attempted to drive away in his van, he was stopped by the police and arrested. He spent two days in custody but the police had no concrete evidence to press any charges, although they had found a receipt for fuel at Buck Barn garage near Pulborough which contradicted his alibi of being at a funfair in Hove at 5.30 p.m, and then returning to his flat by 9.30 p.m on the night Sarah disappeared.[1]

When Whiting was released on bail, he lived with his father in Crawley while his flat in St Augustine Road was being examined by forensic scientists. No evidence was found in Whiting's flat to suggest that Sarah had been there.

On 17 July 2000, Sarah Payne's body was discovered near Pulborough and identified within 24 hours. Roy Whiting was subsequently re-arrested on 31 July 2000 on suspicion of murder. Despite Sarah's body being discovered within 3 miles (4.8 km) of the service station where Whiting had bought fuel on the night Sarah disappeared, along with Whiting's failure to confirm his alibi, there was still insufficient evidence to press charges and Whiting was released without charge for a second time.

Whiting had moved out of his father's house after a vigilante mob smashed the windows with bricks, and now lived in a tent in woodland behind a housing estate in Crawley. On 21 July 2000, Whiting took to the road in a stolen Vauxhall Nova and was pursued by police at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) before he crashed into a parked vehicle and was arrested on dangerous driving charges, for which he was remanded in custody to appear in court two months later. On 27 September 2000, Whiting admitted taking the car and driving dangerously. He was sentenced to 22 months' imprisonment.

With Whiting in prison for car theft, detectives meanwhile carried out forensic tests on his white F-registered Fiat Ducato van, which he had purchased on 24 June 2000, exactly a week before Sarah Payne's disappearance. On 6 February 2001, following a police enquiry, Roy Whiting was charged with the murder of Sarah Payne.[2]

The trial[edit]

By 6 February 2001, Sussex Police had found enough evidence (namely forensic evidence on items found in the Fiat Ducato van) to charge Whiting, and he appeared at Lewes Crown Court on charges of abduction and murder. He denied the charges and was remanded in custody to await trial; he was still serving his sentence for the motoring offences at the time.

The trial began on 14 November 2001 at Lewes Crown Court, and the jury heard from several witnesses. The key witnesses included Sarah Payne's oldest brother Lee, who had seen a scruffy-looking man with "yellowish" teeth drive a white van past the field where he and his siblings had been playing at the time she vanished. A female motorist had found a shoe identified as belonging to Sarah Payne in a country lane several miles from where her body was found, and forensic scientists had found fibres from Whiting's van on the shoe. The damning piece of evidence was a strand of blonde hair on a T-shirt found in Whiting's van - the forensic experts who made this discovery said that DNA test results meant that there was a one-in-a-billion chance of it belonging to anyone other than Sarah Payne. Two other motorists also reported spotting a white van near to the location where Sarah Payne's body was eventually found at around 10.00pm on 1 July 2000, some two hours after she was last seen alive; one motorist reported seeing the vehicle parked on a roadside track, and another reported seeing it pulling out of the track onto the A29.

20 forensic experts were employed during the inquiry from a variety of fields including entomology, pathology, geology, archaeology, environmental profiling and oil/lubricant analysis. It has been estimated that the cost of the investigation involved a thousand personnel and cost more than £3 million.[3]

On 12 December 2001, Roy Whiting was convicted of the abduction and murder of Sarah Payne and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial judge, Mr Justice Curtis, said that it was a rare case in which a life sentence should mean life. This was only the 24th time in England and Wales that such a recommendation was reported to have been made.

After Whiting was convicted of killing Sarah Payne, it was revealed that he was already a convicted child sex offender; this proved correct the Payne family's belief that Sarah had been killed by a child sex offender, which had already led to them co-operating with a media campaign (led by the News of the World) for public access to the sex offenders register, as well as tighter controls on sex offenders who had been released from custody. Whiting's previous conviction had until then been kept from the jury at the request of the police, who felt that if they had heard details of his previous conviction and he had been found guilty, it would allow him to claim that he had been convicted on the basis of an earlier offence rather than the one for which he was being tried, paving the way for a potential successful appeal.

There were renewed calls for the government to allow controlled public access to the sex offender's register. This became the campaign for what is known as Sarah's Law, after the introduction of Megan's Law in the United States following a similar case several years earlier.

Attacks in prison[edit]

On 4 August 2002 Whiting was attacked with a razor by another prisoner while fetching hot water at HMP Wakefield. In June 2004, convicted murderer Rickie Tregaskis was found guilty of carrying out the slashing which left Whiting with a six-inch scar on his right cheek.[4] Tregaskis, serving life for the murder of a disabled man in Cornwall, received a six-year sentence for the attack.[4]

Minimum sentence[edit]

On 24 November 2002, Home Secretary David Blunkett ruled that Roy Whiting must serve a minimum of 50 years in prison. This would make him ineligible for parole until 2051, when he would be 92 years old.

Within 48 hours of the ruling being made, the High Court and European Court of Human Rights had ruled in favour of another convicted murderer 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 reported in the media that Whiting would be appealing to the High Court for his sentence to be reduced, but his appeal would not be heard until six years afterwards.

Whiting's appeal against the ruling was heard on 9 June 2010 at the High Court, which now has the final say on how long a life sentence prisoner must serve before being considered for parole. His lawyers argued that Blunkett's decision was politically motivated, as he knew he was likely to be on the verge of being stripped of his powers to decide on minimum terms for life sentence prisoners, and that the government was under fire from the British public due to a firefighters strike, and saw the opportunity of setting a 50-year tariff for Whiting as a move which would prove popular with voters, due to the high profile of the crime and the fact that it was still relatively fresh in the public imagination. Shortly before the decision was announced, Myra Hindley had also died - she had been the life sentence prisoner whose minimum sentence had notably been gradually increased from 25 years to a whole life tariff by a succession of Home Secretaries, decisions which had led to claims from Hindley and her supporters that her sentence was being increased to serve the interests of these politicians and their governments, in a similar fashion to which Whiting's lawyers argued had led to the Home Secretary setting his minimum sentence at 50 years.

On 9 June 2010, The High Court reduced Whiting's minimum term to 40 years, bringing forward his parole date to 2041, making him eligible for parole at the age of 82.[5]


  1. ^ "Sarah accused gave funfair alibi". BBC. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  2. ^ Jeff Edwards (10 May 2012). "Crimes That Shook Britain: The murder of Sarah Payne". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  3. ^ Louise Acford (26 November 2007). "Sarah Payne investigation cost nearly £3m". Southern Daily Echo. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Man guilty of Sarah killer attack". BBC. 25 June 2004. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Sarah Payne killer Roy Whiting's jail term reduced". BBC. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2015.