Sara Payne

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Sarah Jane "Sara" Payne MBE[1][2] (née Williams; born 1 March 1969) is a British media campaigner known for her campaign for parents' right for a controlled access to the sex offender registry, spurred by the murder of her daughter Sarah in 2000.


Payne was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, on 1 March 1969. She left school in 1985, at the age of 16. Shortly after, she met her future husband Michael Payne.[3] They married in West Sussex on 4 August 1990 and announced they had separated in September 2003, blaming the strain of coping with Sarah's murder three years earlier. They have four surviving children; two sons and two daughters, the youngest daughter born in late 2003 just after their separation. Since 2005, they have also had three grandchildren.

On 27 October 2014, Michael Payne was found dead at the age of 46 at his home in Maidstone, Kent. They had been separated for 11 years, despite media reports in the early stages of their separation that they had been hoping to get back together at some stage. The death of Michael Payne was not treated as suspicious, and was believed to have been caused by an alcoholism related illness. He is believed to have been dead for several days before his body was found.[4]

Sara Payne also endured the death of her 44-year-old brother Paul from cancer in January 2003, and her mother Elizabeth Williams died from the same illness just over a year later - media sources including the Daily Mirror wrongly reported at the time that it was Lesley Payne, the step-mother of Michael Payne, who had died.[5] Sara Payne's father, Brian Williams, was left partly paralysed by an aneurysm at the age of 55; he died in 2007, having been disabled for nearly 20 years. Brian and Elizabeth Williams separated in 1986.

Campaign for Sarah's Law[edit]

Since the murder of her daughter Sarah in July 2000, she has campaigned for parents to be given the right to know if a convicted paedophile is living in their community.[6]
Initially, the then Home Secretary David Blunkett refused to allow any public access to the information, and several child care agencies and police forces condemned Payne's campaigning and that of other corners of the media which took part, amid fears that it could trigger vigilante violence, as well as driving paedophiles "underground" and allowing them to remain at liberty unmonitored, placing children at even more risk. Sara Payne has also called for offenders guilty of the most serious sexual offences to be imprisoned for life and never released from prison unless they lived to a great age or had changed physically and were incapable reoffending.

However, in 2008, eight years after the start of the campaign, a pilot scheme was introduced by four British police forces. If successful, it may be extended across the country in the future.[7]

In 2004, she published a book, Sara Payne: A Mother's Story, which was centred on her daughter's murder, the tragedy's effect on the family, and her campaign for Sarah's Law, as well as an opening chapter which detailed her life in the 15 years preceding the murder.

Awards, honours[edit]

On 31 December 2008, Payne was made an MBE in the New Year Honours list.[8][9]
On 26 January 2009, she was appointed Victims Champion by the Justice Secretary Jack Straw.[10]
On 9 June 2012, Payne was granted an Honorary Doctorate by the Open University at a graduation ceremony held at Ely Cathedral. Payne is a trustee of The Phoenix Foundation, a charity assisting victims of child sex abuse, and combatting such abuse.[11]


On 23 December 2009, Payne was taken to St George's Hospital, Tooting, south London, following complications after brain surgery in the summer of 2008 to cure a ruptured aneurysm.[12][13] On 24 December 2009, it was stated that she was critically ill.[14] Later reports indicated that she had responded well to treatment and she came out of hospital several weeks later.[15]

News International phone hacking scandal[edit]

On 28 July 2011, it was reported that Sara Payne's mobile phone was one of those targeted by the News of the World as part of the News International phone hacking scandal, which had led to owner Rupert Murdoch's decision to close the newspaper down soon after the allegations were publicised earlier that month.[16] Payne was said to be "absolutely devastated and deeply disappointed" at the disclosure, while a colleague close to her said that she was "in bits" over the affair.[17]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Dr Sara Payne | MBA Literary Agents | Authors | Scriptwriters and Directors". Retrieved 2016-07-08. 
  3. ^ Sara Payne: A Mother's Story
  4. ^ Father of Sarah Payne found dead at his home
  5. ^ Deveney, Catherine (30 May 2004). "Survival skills". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  6. ^ MP backs Sarah's Law paedophile scheme
  7. ^ 'Sarah's Law' sex offender alert scheme may be extended
  8. ^ "Campaigner Sara Payne becomes MBE". BBC News. 31 December 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  9. ^ "Campaigner Sara Payne becomes MBE". BBC Online. 31 December 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "Sara Payne new Victims Champion". BBC News. 26 January 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  11. ^ Charity Commission. The Phoenix Foundation Limited, registered charity no. 1138097. 
  12. ^ Glimmer of hope for Sara Payne as she fights for her life after brain surgery relapse
  13. ^ Sara Payne 'improves' after brain surgery
  14. ^ "Sara Payne in critical condition". BBC News. 24 December 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Sara Payne's health 'improving'
  16. ^ "News of the World targeted phone of Sarah Payne's mother", The Guardian, 28 July 2011
  17. ^ "News of the World targeted phone of Sarah Payne's mother". Nick Davies, Amelia Hill. The Guardian. 28 July 2011.