Roy Whiting changed his appearance from scruffy to "steam cleaned" after Sarah Payne was snatched, a court heard.

A builder who employed Whiting told Lewes Crown Court that when he met the 42-year-old on July 2 last year he had dramatically changed his dress and cleanliness.

Terence Heath bumped into Whiting outside the defendant's flat in St Augustine Road, Littlehampton, the day after Sarah vanished.

He said he immediately noticed that Whiting - who denies kidnapping and murdering eight-year-old Sarah - had changed the rear doors in his white van, installing doors with windows.

On day six of the trial, Mr Heath was asked by Crispin Aylett, junior counsel for the prosecution, how Whiting normally looked.

Mr Heath said: "Very scruffy, very dirty, unshaven. He never smelled but always looked very untidy and dirty. His clothes were dirty."

He only ever met Whiting once away from various building sites before the chance meeting on July 2, when he visited Whiting at his flat to pay him for a job. Whiting was sick in bed with a twisted gut, he added.

When asked about Whiting's appearance on July 2, Mr Heath said: "He was very smart and very clean - steam cleaned. His general appearance was scruffy, very rough looking.

"I had never seen him looking so smart before."

Sally O'Niell QC, defending Whiting, said to Mr Heath: "Your only contact with Mr Whiting was at work, wasn't it? You never socialised with him. I dare say Whiting is not the only person you've come across on a building site who might be called scruffy."

Mr Heath replied: "That's correct. At work most of them would be scruffy, myself included."

Earlier the court heard how Whiting had been wearing a dirty T-shirt and muddy stained jeans when arrested by police on July 2, shortly after he met Mr Heath in the street.

Dr Ewan Gerrard, who conducted a medical examination on Whiting at Chichester police station on July 3, said he was unshaven with grey hair and ingrained dirt on his hands and under his fingernails.

Dr Gerrard also told how he found three scratches on Whiting's body.

A 1in scratch was found on the left of his chest on his ribs. It was said to be between two and three days old.

A superficial scratch was also found on his left upper arm. It was one or two days old.

And another small scratch, measuring less than an inch, was found on his right forearm. It was thought to be a day or two old.

Whiting gave no explanation for the scratches.

The trial was adjourned until 10am on Monday.

The prosecution claims Whiting changed his appearance after being spotted by Sarah's brother Lee, who was 13 at the time, as he desperately searched for the eight-year-old near her grandparents' home in Kingston Gorse.

Lee told police that he had seen a scruffy, unshaven man driving a white van close to where Sarah was last seen alive.

The case continues.

November 23 2001