Roy Whiting was "on the prowl" hunting for children on the night Sarah Payne vanished, a court heard.

Summing up the prosecution's case at Lewes Crown Court today, Timothy Langdale, QC, said evidence had built a jigsaw which provided a "compelling picture" of Whiting's guilt.

He said: "His evidence has done nothing to diminish the force of the case against him."

After reminding the court Whiting had said he had been driving about in his white van on July 1 last year at "a loose end", Mr Langdale said: "You may conclude the person who sees an opportunity, because that's what it was, provided itself which no one could have predicted.

"The person who seized Sarah Payne was someone who was out and about checking on places where children might be.

"Someone who was on the prowl."

Mr Langdale told the court of items found inside Whiting's van when it was seized on the day after his arrest on July 2 last year. He said there was rope, two plastic gardening ties looped together, a small knife and baby oil.

He said: "We do not know, none of us know, what happened to Sarah when the man snatched her and carried her off in his van but certainly those items were in Whiting's van."

Mr Langdale said Whiting had not been in the least curious when he was told about Sarah's disappearance despite being familiar with the area from where she had vanished, a country lane in Kingston Gorse, Littlehampton.

The court has heard from detectives who visited Whiting the day after the eight-year-old vanished and spoke to him at his flat in St Augustine Road, Littlehampton.

Mr Langdale said: "It's a feature in this case that this man, who has been working at Golden Avenue and who knows Kingston Lane and who knows at the very least some of the fields and who had only stopped working there on June 17, being told two weeks later by two policemen who had come to his flat an eight-year-old girl had gone missing.

"There was not one query, not one comment, not a word from Roy Whiting.

"He clammed up at all times when the issue ever arose about his knowledge of Kingston Gorse.

"You may conclude the reason he didn't ask was because he didn't need to ask."

Mr Langdale said Whiting had been: "Evasive and deceptive about his knowledge of not only the country lanes from where the schoolgirl disappeared but also the field where her body was found 16 days later off the A29 near Pulborough."

The trial continues.

6 December 2001