Jurors in the Sarah Payne murder trial were due to continue their deliberations this morning.

The jury of nine men and three women spent 50 minutes considering their verdicts at Lewes Crown Court yesterday before the hearing was adjourned.

They were sent to a hotel where they spent the night.

The judge, Mr Justice Richard Curtis, warned them not to watch any television reports, read any newspapers or discuss the case among themselves while away from the jury room. He told them to have courage and not shrink from being decisive.

He had spent four hours summing up the evidence which has been presented to the jury during the past 16 days which allegedly proves mechanic and builder Roy Whiting, 42, kidnapped and murdered the eight-year-old schoolgirl.

Whiting, formerly of St Augustine Road, Littlehampton, denies both charges.

Mr Curtis concluded his speech by saying: "It's your task to bring your own judgment to bear on this case. Your judgment must be unaffected by the views of other people or publicity about this case from whatever source.

"You're the only people who have heard all the evidence, seen all the witnesses and listened to the arguments on both sides.

"The reality is that if the accused's evidence is, or may be, true there must be acquittals on both counts. Only if you disbelieve him and find evidence sufficient in some part or parts of the Crown's case which make you sure he is the murderer or kidnapper of Sarah Payne can there be convictions on the relevant counts."

He told the jurors they were under no pressure of time in reaching their decision. He told them if they could not agree Whiting was responsible for murder an alternative verdict of manslaughter, a lesser offence, would be acceptable.

Running through the evidence, Mr Curtis spent 40 minutes discussing the discovery of a single strand of Sarah's blonde hair on a red sweatshirt recovered when Whiting's van was seized, the day after Sarah went missing from a cornfield behind her grandparents' home in Kingston Gorse, Littlehampton, at about 7.30pm on July 1 last year.

It is the prosecution's case the nine-inch hair provides a billion-to-one link to Whiting. The defence has suggested it found its way on to the garment through contamination in the lab.

Referring to the strands of forensic and witness evidence which the prosecution says builds into a picture which pinpoints Whiting as Sarah's killer, Mr Curtis said: "The Crown says it is necessary to look at the whole jigsaw, not just bit by bit.

"Those are the battle-lines that were drawn and it's you who will be in the position to decide that."

Sarah's body was found in a shallow grave in a field off the A29 between Pulborough and Billingshurst 16 days after she went missing.

The trial continues.

December 11, 2001