Roy Whiting

Roy William Whiting (born 26 January 1959) is an English convicted child murderer, from West Sussex. In July 2000, he abducted and murdered 8-year-old Sarah Payne of which he was found guilty in December 2001. On 12 December 2001, He was sentenced to life imprisonment and is set to remain in prison until at least 2041, when he will be 82 and eligible for parole if he is still alive.

Roy Whiting
Roy William Whiting

(1959-01-26) 26 January 1959
OccupationCar mechanic, delivery worker, building labourer
Criminal statusIn Prison
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)

Early life

Whiting was born in Crawley, West Sussex, on 26 January 1959 and grew up in the town as one of six to Pamela and Charles Whiting, 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. He also had an illegitimate daughter, born around 1990, with a woman who later spoke to the media about her relationship with Whiting but asked to remain anonymous.

1995 conviction and imprisonment

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. On 23 June that year, he admitted the charges of abduction and indecent assault and was sentenced to 4 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 had the case reached a trial. 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

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. When Whiting re-appeared soon afterwards 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, some 15 miles (24 km) north of Littlehampton. 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

By 6 February 2001, Sussex Police had found enough 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, and the murder charge meant that he was not released from prison for the motoring offences during the summer of 2001.

Roy Whiting's 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 at a roadside in Coolham, 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 a vehicle matching the description of Whiting's van on a roadside track, and another reported seeing a white van pulling out of the same track onto the A29. Sarah Payne's older brother Lee also gave a description of the driver of a white van he saw in the Kingston Gorse area which resembled Whiting and an item of clothing which was recovered from his van after his first arrest, although he had initially failed to pick Whiting out of an ID parade. A colleague of Whiting also informed the jury that Whiting had appeared cleaner and smarter than usual when he saw him shortly before his initial arrest on 2 July 2000 - an indication that he had washed in order to destroy any forensic evidence. Sarah Payne's older brother Lee reported seeing a van near the scene of the abduction with its rear wheels spinning - Whiting's defence argued that this could not have been his Fiat Ducato, which was front-wheel drive.

20 forensic experts were employed during the inquiry from a variety of fields including entomology, pathology, geology, archaeology, environmental profiling and oil/lubricant analysis. In total, 500 items were submitted for forensic testing and 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.

After Whiting was convicted, 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 who had already committed similar offences, 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. This campaign had started within days of Sarah Payne's body being found, and several months before Whiting had even been charged.

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

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

On 24 November 2002, it was announced that Home Secretary David Blunkett had imposed a 50-year minimum sentence on Whiting, which meant that he would not be released from prison unless he lived until at least 2051 and the age of 92.

Shortly afterwards, the High Court and European Court of Human Rights had ruled in favour of another convicted murderer, Anthony Anderson, who was challenging the Home Secretary's right to decide when or if a life sentence prisoner should be 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.

Whiting's appeal against the ruling was finally heard on 9 June 2010 at the High Court, which now has the final say on when or if a life sentence prisoner can be considered for parole. His lawyers argued that Blunkett's decision was politically motivated, as he had known for some time that he was likely to be 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 arising from a pay dispute, 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.

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. "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.
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