Roy Whiting was today found guilty of the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne and sentenced to life.

The 42-year-old killer, who had a previous child sex conviction, was told by trial judge Mr Justice Richard Curtis that he was "every parent's nightmare" and should never be released.

The judge said: "You are indeed an evil man. You are in no way mentally unwell. I have seen you for a month and in my view you are a glib and cunning liar."

There were cheers of delight as the verdicts were read out by the foreman at Lewes Crown Court.

The jury of nine men and three women had been deliberating for nine hours and reached their verdicts unanimously.

As soon as the verdicts were declared, the court heard details of Whiting's previous conviction for the kidnap and indecent assault of a nine-year-old girl in 1995.

The judge told Whiting: "I have a psychiatrist's report which assists me, and a psychiatrist who saw you in June 1995 said you were a high risk repeat offender. How right he was.

"I have to rely more than I wish to on the facts of your last offence and the truly appalling fact of this kidnap and murder.

"My judgment is that you are and will remain an absolute menace to any little girl.

"This is one of the rare cases when I shall recommend to the appropriate authorities that you will be kept in prison for the rest of your life."

The judge said Whiting had received a fair trial based solely on the evidence, not his previous record.

He said: "You are every parent's and every grandparent's nightmare come true.

"It is important in ordinary life that children are allowed to have some freedom by their parents and others to learn self-reliance and enjoy their childhood ... You exploited this for your own abnormal sexual desires."

The judge said he was satisfied Whiting was out hunting for children and said he had turned his van into an "moving prison".

He said Whiting had stored a rope, knife, ties and soft materials in the van and had known he was less likely to be caught if he used a van rather than a car.

Sally O'Neill, defending, said the defence would offer no mitigation.

The jury, who had been unaware of his previous sex conviction, were told Whiting had been sentenced to four years in jail for the sex attack in June 1995.

Timothy Langdale QC, prosecuting, told the court how on March 4, 1995, Whiting had abducted a nine-year-old girl in the Ifield area of Crawley.

He told the jury how the defendant threw the child into the back of his dirty red Ford Sierra, locked the doors and told her to 'shut up' because he had a knife.

The court heard how the youngster, referred to in court as Miss H, was then ordered into the front of the car and told to undress.

Mr Langdale said: "The defendant told the girl to take off her clothes. When she refused, he produced a rope from his pocket and threatened to tie her up.

"What he actually threatened was that he would 'tie her mouth up'. She took her clothes off as he had ordered her to do."

He then gave graphic details of the abuse to which Whiting subjected the terrified child.

Whiting served just over two years of his four-year sentence for the 1995 assault and refused to take part in a prison scheme designed to rehabilitate sex offenders.

The assault bore chilling similarities to the Sarah Payne case.

The jury who convicted him today were unaware of it - but they did hear damning forensic evidence that linked Whiting to the kidnap of Sarah.

A solitary nine-inch blonde hair belonging to the eight-year-old was discovered on a red sweatshirt in the back of Whiting's white Fiat Ducato van.

The chance of that hair not being Sarah's was a billion to one, forensic expert Ray Chapman said.

In addition 22 "indistinguishable" fibres from five items discovered in the van were found in two clumps of the schoolgirl's hair recovered from her burial site in a field off the A29 near Pulborough.

Four fibres from the red sweatshirt and a single fibre from a clown-patterened curtain retrieved from the van were also found on Sarah's shoe - the only item of her clothing ever to have been recovered.

Pathologist Vesna Djurovic, who examined Sarah's body, told the court the eight-year-old had met a "violent death" and she was the victim of a "sexually motivated homicide".

The most likely cause of death would have been asphyxiation.

When Whiting, formerly of St Augustine Road, Littlehampton, took the witness stand he told his defence barrister Sally O'Neill QC that he was there to "tell the truth to the jury".

He denied clams that he had been "prowling for children" when he had drifted from park to park on the day of Sarah's disappearance or that he had changed his appearance the day after her abduction.

Under intense cross-examination a hunched and irritable Whiting claimed that the fibres found in matted clumps of Sarah's hair matched items in his van by "pure chance".

December 12, 2001