The judge in the Sarah Payne murder trial today told the jury to question whether her alleged killer had "tailored" his evidence.

The judge, Mr Justice Richard Curtis, was summing up at Lewes Crown Court on the 17th day of Roy Whiting's trial for the kidnap and murder of eight-year-old Sarah.

He started by telling the jury: "The life of a child is precious in the eyes of the law and the eyes of all citizens. Yet when a child loses his or her life the rule of law of fair and even-handed treatment to anyone accused of taking that life must prevail."

He went on to say: "There is no doubt that someone abducted Sarah Payne and then killed her and buried her body in that shallow grave, just off the A29 road.

"You, the jury, have probably never come across a case like this in your life. Unfortunately, I have.

"You must bring to this case a calm and dispassionate mind and act only on the evidence which has been presented to you. Be careful not to go to the extremes of repugnance or rush to the other extreme. Steer a straight course."

The judge then began to outline the evidence presented to the jury of three women and nine men over the past three weeks.

He said: "It's absolutely vital you, and each of you, realise it is for you to decide what are the necessary and proper deductions to be made from the basic fact of the case.

"Having regard to the body's nakedness and the pathologist's evidence that Sarah Payne met a violent death, is it a necessary and proper deduction that she was murdered for an abnormal sexual reason or to cover up the commission of a sexual offence?

"It's for you to decide the state of mind of Sarah's attacker taking into account all circumstances."

The judge reminded the jury the burden of proof lay with the prosecution.

Referring to the alibi, Whiting, 42, gave for the night of Sarah's death, he said: "What about the receipt from the Buck Barn Garage at 9.53pm on that Saturday?

"Did it torpedo the accused's claims to police of being at home? Was the accused's evidence to you tailored to fit his own case?

"Did the receipt for shop purchases the following day torpedo his claims to have stayed in all day on Sunday? Are his explanations indicative of a similar tailored story?"

He went on to tell the jury: "The Crown allege the accused has told lies to the police. Under our system that is not an offence. The mere fact he has lied to the police is not evidence of guilt.

"You must ask yourself every time why did he lie if you think he did. You may only act on a lie as evidence of guilt if the lie you find was told deliberately, on an important matter and theoretically told in the knowledge of guilt and the fear of the truth popping out."

The jury was reminded how the court had been told Whiting lied to police not only about his whereabouts on the night Sarah vanished and the following day, when he was arrested, but also about items he had allegedly been seen removing from the van including a checked shirt, white socks and a white T-shirt.

The judge reminded the jury Whiting's explanation had been a memory blank and forgetfulness.

Sarah, from Hersham, Surrey, went missing from a field behind her grandparents' home in Kingston Gorse, East Preston, at around 7.30pm on July 1 last year.

Her body was found half-buried in a shallow grave off the A29 between Pulborough and Billingshurst.

Whiting, a mechanic and builder formerly of St Augustine Road, Littlehampton, denies kidnap and murder.

The jury was expected to be sent out to consider its verdict later this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

December 10, 2001