The man accused of killing eight-year-old Sarah Payne appeared in the dock at Lewes Crown Court today.

Mechanic Roy Whiting, 41, formerly of St Augustine Road, Littlehampton, is charged with kidnapping Sarah from a country lane in July last year.

Whiting is also accused of her murder. He denies both charges.

Sarah vanished from a field in Kingston Gorse, East Preston, on July 1 last year.

Her disappearance sparked a nationwide hunt which resulted in the discovery of her body three weeks later near Pulborough.

A crowd of 30 police and about 60 journalists from around Britain gathered outside the court from 9am today.

Sarah's mother Sara and father Michael arrived at the court in a Vauxhall people carrier at 9.24am today.

Sara, wearing a long grey coat, grey trousers and a black blouse, paused briefly to pose for pictures before stepping inside the courtroom.

The pair held hands briefly on the court steps and smiled to a cameraman leaning from the balcony of the White Hart hotel, directly opposite the main entrance.

The courtroom opened at 11.30am but the case was delayed for the reading of the patents, a traditional judges' ceremony to mark the start of the new legal term.

Michael Payne sat on a bench in the well of the court next to his father Terrence, flanked by police liaison officers.

Sarah's mother Sara sat in the row behind, less than a metre from the dock.

Members of the public, reporters and supporters of the Payne family crowded together on the benches of the gallery.

Whiting was later brought into the courtroom and stood in the dock, speaking only to confirm his name.

He wore a pale yellow T-shirt and blue jeans.

The opening of the prosecution's case was expected to be delayed by legal submissions.

November 13 2001