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Michael Payne, father of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, found dead in Maidstone, Kent

By KentOnline reporter

Tributes were paid today to the father of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne after he was found dead at his home in Kent.

Michael Payne, who had fought a battle with alcohol since the death of his eight-year-old daughter 14 years ago, was aged just 45.

Mr Payne had been living in Brishing Lane, Park Wood, in Maidstone, since splitting with his wife Sara and moving out of the family home in Surrey.

Michael Payne has died aged 45
Michael Payne has died aged 45

Two of his children have paid tribute to Mr Payne on social media.

His daughter Charlotte posted on Facebook that she was 'heartbroken'.

"No matter what happened and how many mistakes we all made, you will always be my daddy," she wrote.

His son Lee wrote: "Dad, you had your demons and troubles but you had a good heart and were a decent man … you will be missed. We are all heartbroken."

Sarah was snatched by paedophile Roy Whiting as she played in a field with her brothers and sister in West Sussex in July 2000.

Sarah was aged eight when she disappeared while playing in a cornfield near her grandparents' home in Kingston Gorse. Her body was found 16 days later 15 miles away near Pulborough.

Murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne
Murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne

Whiting was given a life sentence a year later. He was ordered to serve a 50-year term, later reduced to 40 years by the Appeal Court.

Mr Payne's life spiralled out of control following the murder.

In 2011 he was jailed for 16 months following a drunken glassing of one of his brothers.

Michael Payne's boarded-up flat in Park Wood, Maidstone
Michael Payne's boarded-up flat in Park Wood, Maidstone

He struck Stephen Payne on the back of his head and then slashed his arm with a shard of broken glass for what were described at Maidstone Crown Court as "completely unfathomable" reasons.

The two men had drunk three litres of cider each and a litre of vodka each on the night of the attack.

Jailing him, Judge Jeremy Carey said that any parent would have the deepest sympathy for him.

Sara Payne campaigned for measures to give parents details about paedophiles after her daughter Sarah's murder
Sara Payne campaigned for measures to give parents details about paedophiles after her daughter Sarah's murder

Mr Payne split from his wife Sara whilst they were expecting their fifth child, blaming the trauma of Sarah's murder.

Mrs Payne said at the time: "We know we're not the same people we once were - and everyone knows the awful reason why."

Mr Payne added: "I've a lot of anger and bitterness inside me. I'm full of guilt and rage that I wasn't there to protect my little girl from that man."

A local shop worker said Mr Payne used to visit often but was clearly troubled.

He said: "He was a very nice man, pleasant and polite, but you could tell he struggled with drink. But who wouldn't when that has happened to your daughter? My daughter was two when it happened and I know I would not have been able to cope."

Sheila Vernau, of Brishing Lane, said: "He kept himself to himself but was a nice chap who would always say hello. I know he would help out his elderly neighbours."

Paedophile Roy Whiting will serve at least 40 years in jail
Paedophile Roy Whiting will serve at least 40 years in jail

After more than a decade of campaigning by mum Sara, Sarah's Law was introduced in Britain in 2011 giving parents, carers and guardians the right to request background checks which permitted police to disclose details of any previous convictions for child sexual offences.


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