Michael Payne: Murdered Sarah's Father Dies

The children of Michael Payne, father of murdered schoolgirl Sarah, have paid tribute to him following his death.

Mr Payne was found dead, aged 45, at his home in Maidstone, Kent, on Monday, according to reports.

He had developed a drink problem after his daughter was abducted and killed near the home of her grandparents in West Sussex in 2000.

Michael's daughter Charlotte posted a picture of her father on Facebook alongside a message saying she was "heartbroken".

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

She later added: "I'm sorry I couldn't save you dad. I hope you have finally found your peace and happiness."

Her brother Lee wrote: "Dad, you had your demons and troubles but you had a good heart and was a decent man! I hope now you have found peace at last! RIP, you will be missed. We are all heartbroken."

Michael Payne split from his wife Sara in 2003 after 18 years together, blaming the difficulties of coping with the tragic loss of their daughter.

Speaking at the time Mrs Payne, who became a child protection campaigner after her daughter's death, told the News of the World: "We know we're not the same people we once were - and everyone knows the awful reason why."

Mr Payne told the newspaper he felt guilty for being unable to protect his daughter and said this had put strain on his marriage.

Three years ago Mr Payne was jailed after pleading guilty to glassing his brother Stephen following a heavy drinking session during which both men consumed around three litres of cider each and a bottle of vodka.

Sentencing him, Judge Jeremy Carey said he had the "deepest sympathy" for the loss of his daughter but the offence warranted a jail sentence.

Speaking after the jail term for his daughter's killer, convicted paedophile Roy Whiting, was reduced in 2010, Mr Payne said the decision to cut the sentence from 50 years to 40 before becoming eligible for parole was "outrageous".

"He didn't deserve a reduction but he won't be coming out," he said.

An inquest is expected to be opened into Mr Payne's death next week, the office for Mid Kent and Medway coroner Patricia Harding said.

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