The alleged killer of schoolgirl Sarah Payne yesterday denied ''prowling'' parks and a funfair in the hunt for young children.

Roy Whiting took the witness box at Lewes Crown Court for the first time yesterday to answer claims that he kidnapped and murdered the eight-year-old.

He claimed he spent the day Sarah was abducted drifting from park to park in the Hove area of east Sussex before visiting a funfair in the evening.

Timothy Langdale QC, for the prosecution, said: ''Why were you at these places? The suggestion is that the man who abducted Sarah, and I suggest that was you, was someone out on the prowl looking for a child. Is that why you were at these locations?

''Why were you going to a funfair? You told us you did not like the rides. What were you doing at the funfair in this early part of the evening when there was more chance of there being a young child?

''Is it just coincidence that you happened to be somewhere where young children may be expected to be?''

He replied that it was.

Mr Whiting, wearing blue jeans and a red sweatshirt, became more irritated as Mr Langdale continued his questioning - asking whether it was coincidence that he was out in a van with a compartment in the back, and that there were plastic ties, a knife, a bottle of Johnson's baby oil and a semen-stained shirt in the van.

Mr Whiting said it was ''pure chance''.

Mr Langdale said: ''You are telling us that the knife was not there to threaten or frighten a child? There was baby oil in the van. Was it there for sexual purposes?

''There was semen on the checked shirt. Did that have anything to do with any sexual activity that had taken place in the van?''

Mr Whiting claimed the knife was for cutting wire, the baby oil was for his dry hands and the body fluid had reached the shirt sleeve when he went to the toilet.

On day 13 of the trial, Mr Langdale asked Mr Whiting why he had failed to mention to police his knowledge of the area near Pulborough where Sarah's naked body was dumped.

The court heard the defendant did not ask where Sarah had been abducted or where her body was subsequently found. He claimed detectives had shown him where the shallow grave was on a map.

Mr Langdale said: ''You did not need to be shown as you were responsible for her body being in that field, were you not?''

Mr Whiting replied: ''No, I am not responsible.''

The 42-year-old former mechanic, formerly of St Augustine Road, Littlehampton, who denies kidnapping and murdering Sarah, was also questioned about why he had failed to tell police he had visited a petrol station close to the burial site on July 1.

A till receipt showed he had been to the Buck Barn garage on the A24 at 10pm, proving he had lied about his movements that day. But during a total of 12 police interviews he said ''no comment'' to almost all the questions he was asked.

Mr Langdale said: ''Police were still trying to find that little girl. Being able to prove that you were at the garage shortly before 10 o'clock might have been a complete alibi. Then why did you not say anything to the police?

''You told us, as an innocent man, that you had not the slightest idea that Sarah's body was buried rather nearer to the

Buck Barn garage than to


''You were worried because you were the only person who knew where Sarah Payne's body was buried.''

Mr Whiting said: ''I have no answer to that.''

The trial resumes today when Mr Langdale will continue his cross-examination of Mr Whiting.