Roy Whiting was a loner with few friends, the jury in the Sarah Payne murder trial heard today.

Self-employed builder Douglas Wawman employed Whiting as a builder's labourer for several jobs in the Littlehampton area from July 1999, Lewes Crown Court was told.

In his statement, read to the court, he said Whiting, who denies kidnapping and murdering schoolgirl Sarah Payne, had given himself the name Roy Wood.

He said they had done several jobs together, including building an extension to his son's house in Golden Avenue, round the corner from where Sarah's grandparents live in Kingston Gorse, near Littlehampton.

He said: "I would describe Roy as a loner with few or no friends. He is not someone I had much, if anything, in common with."

Mr Wawman's son Brian told police Whiting would take his rottweiller, Zeus, for walks around the lanes and fields around his home.

He said: "Roy used to wear black steel-capped boots, khaki trousers and a quilted lumberjack shirt. He always seemed to wear the same clothes and I wondered if they ever got washed."

Carpenter Paul Beaton said he had worked with Whiting on a number of occasions and described how they once met at the Tote Cafe, near Pulborough, not far from where Sarah's body was found.

He said: "He seemed to me to have a good knowledge of the area and knew back roads I didn't know existed and some farm tracks in the Pulborough area.

"Roy never used a map and knew directions from memory."

The court heard from Paulo Vrabez, who was working at Buck Barn Garage, at the junction of the A24 and A272, on the night Sarah vanished.

He told the court he kept the shop opened half an hour later than usual that night, not closing until 10.30pm.

He was shown a receipt which detectives found in Whiting's van on the day of his arrest and confirmed it had come from his till.

The receipt was for exactly £20 of diesel and was paid for in cash.

The till receipt showed the time 10pm but Mr Vrabez told the court the clock was running seven minutes fast and the transaction took place at 9.53pm.

Under cross examination by Sally O'Niell QC he said a description he had given of Whiting to police, in which he said he was a male with nothing particularly unusual about him except a grey colour, could have been influenced by papers he had been reading at the time of giving his statement.

Earlier today the court heard how Sarah's little body had been found in a 4ft long grave, which was less than half a foot deep, in a field off the A29 near Pulborough.

Archeologist Lucy Siburn investigated the grave and concluded: "It appears to have been cut using a small spade with a blade width of 140mm.

"The irregular and shallow size suggests it was rapidly excavated. It would not have allowed the body to have been adequately covered and would only have taken minimal animal activity to expose it."

Detectives returned to the site where Sarah's body was found and dug two holes the same size and shape as Sarah's grave in daylight and darkness, the jury heard.

Replicating the condition in which they believed Sarah was buried, they found it took just five minutes to complete the dig and cover the hole.

The court then heard of the discovery of a little black sandal which the prosecution say provides a billion-to-one link between Sarah's death and Whiting, 42, of St Augustine Road, Littlehampton.

Agricultural surveyor Deborah Bray was driving on the B2139 Coolham road near to its junction with the A272 on July 3 last year when she first saw the shoe, believed to have been one Sarah wore on the day of her disappearance from a cornfield near her grandparent's home in Kingston Gorse, near Littlehampton two days earlier.

She told the court she had not made a connection between the shoe and Sarah until the schoolgirl's body was found nearby.

She then alerted police, who told her to go back to the scene.

She said: "I was quite surprised to find it but it was still under the hedge. It was definitely the same shoe as the one I had seen a fortnight earlier.

" I really wasn't expecting it to still be there."

Mrs Bray said she picked the sandal up gingerly between her little finger and thumb and took it a police rendezvous point at Brinsbury Agricultural College nearby.

She was shown the remains of a little black shoe stored in a cardboard box and confirmed it was the same one.

It is the prosecution case that fibres found on the shoe's Velcro strap provide a strong link with items found in Whiting's white van.

The court also heard a statement from Sandra Bury, who had also seen a shoe at the same junction on July 3. She believed it was the left shoe but when she returned to recover it could find no trace of it.

The trial continues.

November 21 2001