Hidden history of sex assaults

AS THE jury stared into Roy Whiting’s eyes for the first time, on the first day of the Sarah Payne murder trial, they had no idea the smartly dressed and clean-shaven man before them had a history of abducting and sexually assaulting young girls.

The man before them was a calculating killer who had lived a confused childhood and a vengeful adult life.

Roy William Whiting was born on 26 January, 1959, in Horsham Hospital, in West Sussex. The son of George Whiting, a sheet metal worker and his wife, Pamela , a former cook, he grew up in the Langley Green area of Crawley with his brother, Peter, and sister, Gillian.

As a teenager, Whiting struggled at school, leaving on his 16th birthday with no worthy qualifications and beginning what would be a succession of low-paid, manual jobs.

When Whiting was 17, his mother left the family home for another man, leaving his father to care for the children. Whiting would remain at home for a further ten years before a sudden marriage made him leave his home.

In June 1986, aged 27, Whiting married a local shopworker, Linda Brooker, then 22, and the couple set up home in the Crawley area. But the partnership lasted less than a year after Brooker walked out on him despite the fact she was carrying their first child. The baby, a boy, was born at Crawley Hospital in July 1987.

Whiting was there to see the birth, but the divide between the baby’s parents remained and they divorced in 1990.

Now living on his own in a bed-sit, Whiting filled his weekends pursuing macho hobbies, racing stock cars at local tracks and refurbishing motor boats.

In Crawley, where Whiting lived and worked in a garage, around the time of his first offence, he was well-known among colleagues for hanging around schools.

A colleague who worked with him at premises at Hyders Farm House, in Crawley, who did not want to be named, said: "He didn’t really have any mates. After a while, he got into the habit of sloping off about 3:30 each afternoon. This was later called the school run by one of us because he was seen parked by a school when the kids were coming out."

On 4 March, 1995, still living in Crawley, Whiting committed his first sexual assault on a young girl, who, due to a court order, can only be identified as "child H".

After initially denying the abduction and assault of child H, Whiting later made a full confession to Sussex police.

After he pleaded guilty at Lewes Crown Court to the abduction of the girl, Dr Anthony Farrington, a criminal psychiatrist, concluded Whiting was "high-risk".

But, in a glaring anomaly that has astounded and angered child protection experts, Dr Farrington went on to conclude he "had no paedophile tendencies", resulting in Judge John Gower, QC, who retired a year after the case, treating Whiting as though he presented no risk.

Whiting was given a sentence of four years, serving only two and a half.

T he similarities between child H’s terrible ordeal in 1995 and Sarah Payne’s five years later can now be revealed and show a chilling insight into the calculating mind of a psychopathic killer.

Both his victims were pre-pubescent girls - child H was nine, Sarah was eight. Both were seized in an opportunistic way, on a Saturday, from a public place where children often played. On 4 March, 1995, and again, on the 1 July, 2000, Whiting sped off after snatching his victim, along the country lanes of West Sussex he knew so well. On both occasions, a length of rope - which he used to threaten child H - was later found in his vehicle.

Both victims were also left naked after the abduction.

Shortly before each attack, Whiting went off sick from work, a factor which, taken together with his acquisition of a vehicle, police believe indicated "his behaviour was building up to a climax".

IN HIS MIND WHITING NEEDED REVENGE FOR UNHAPPY CHILDHOOD

ALTHOUGH the jury were never told of Whiting’s previous indecent assault offence for fear this would bias their deliberations, the strong similarities between the two crimes provide a clue as to his psychology.

There were striking parallels between the two attacks. For example, the victims were both seized from roadsides and thrown into vehicles bought just days before the kidnappings, suggesting an ominous amount of premeditation and planning.

The court in the first case was told Whiting could not explain why he had seized his nine-year-old victim - he had merely told police he had "snapped" after seeing her playing with two friends.

But perhaps this becomes an extremely important statement in the light of the remarkable similarity with Sarah’s kidnap from beside the field where she was playing with her family.

This scene of young children at play might have had a particular resonance for Whiting, an isolated individual throughout his life, unable to make relationships work - his own brief marriage ending in divorce. Seventy per cent of paedophiles do not have a single close friend during childhood or adolescence. This deprives them of a relationship appropriate to their age and capacity for intimacy and may explain why they turn to abusing children.

This scene of young children and families playing might have sparked a rage within Whiting, upset at his own childhood - marked, as it probably was, with no similar scenes of happy gatherings. Anger and revenge might have precipitated his attacks.

But in the first case, Whiting was so ill-prepared he made mistakes, rendering his eventual arrest inevitable, including leaving two witnesses to the kidnapping and being disturbed by others before he could do worse to his victim. He would have learned from these mistakes, and these lessons were clearly in evidence from the way he abducted Sarah, leaving no witnesses and he then had to ensure she could never be a witness against him.

Part of the problem of understanding Whiting is he himself has never accepted his paedophile tendencies. There are many reasons why paedophiles remain in denial about their behaviour, including the delusion the children brought it upon themselves. This defiance to accept anything wrong would explain his emotional detachment throughout his questioning.

Dr Raj Persaud is a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in south London