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15 March 2016, 11:22 | Updated: 15 March 2016, 11:28
Police officers are today carrying out searches for missing Northamptonshire teenager Sarah Benford, ahead of what would be her 30th birthday.
Sarah has not been seen since she went missing from her care home in April 2000 and her disappearance has been treated as a murder investigation since 2003.
Sarah was just 14 when she went missing and with a significant birthday approaching on Saturday, 19 March, her family are still hopeful for some information that will help police solve the mystery of her disappearance.
Sarah’s mum, Vicky Benford, said: “My daughter, Sarah, should be celebrating her 30th birthday this week. Sarah has a brother and sister who miss her every day and we all need to know what has happened to her.
“Sarah went missing in April 2000, and I have spent the last 16 years wondering where she is. As a family we are looking for closure around her disappearance and somebody must know something. We would ask for people to contact the police if they know anything about Sarah’s disappearance.
“As a family we need to come to terms with what has happened and won’t be able to do this until we know what has happened to Sarah.”
Since the launch of the murder investigation officers have pursued more than 5,000 lines of enquiry, taken 664 statements and collated more than 1,000 reports.
The investigation has also been reviewed by Derbyshire and Leicestershire Police and the Northamptonshire cold case team has also been reviewing the information and evidence from the case.
As part of this review officers have spoken to 20 people and taken further statements and reports. It is this work which has led to today’s searches.
Detective Chief Inspector Martin Kinchin, said:
"Extensive searches took place when Sarah first went missing almost 16 years ago, and eight people have been arrested in connection with her disappearance, but no one has ever been charged.
We believe Sarah may have been murdered in the early days of her disappearance and are today searching an area of land in the hope of finding some connection to her.
We are also continuing to appeal to the public for their help in finding out what happened to Sarah. I am sure that people in the Kettering area may know what happened to her, or have heard rumours about what happened – I want those people to come forward."
Background to Sarah’s disappearance
Sarah lived with her family in Havelock Street, Kettering. She was a troubled teenager and had a history of running away and had spent some time in care at Raven House, Tiffield Children’s Centre and Welford House, Northampton.
The last confirmed sighting of Sarah was by her mother on 6 April 2000, in Kettering town centre. We believe Sarah may have been murdered in the early days of her disappearance. There were several sightings after that date, however these have never been confirmed. Police are still seeking anybody that may have seen Sarah around this time.
• 4 April 2000 – Sarah, 14, absconds from Welford House children’s home in Welford Road, Northampton and returns to Kettering
• 6 April 2000 – Sarah visits her mother in Kettering town centre and there are also sightings of Sarah at Almond Road, Highfield Road and Cherry Road, Kettering. Sarah was wearing patchwork dark blue jeans, orange fleece, black Puffa jacket, cream trainer and a navy and green rucksack
• June 2003 – Three houses in Kettering searched and one in South Wales
• 5 July 2003 – Man arrested but released without charge
• 22 September 2003 – Man arrested but released without charge
• 1 October 2003 – A house in Kettering is searched
• 23 October 2003 – Houses searched and further persons arrested from Nelson Street, Kettering. Nobody charged
• 26 October 2003 – Flat in Hampden Crescent, Kettering, searched
• 27 November 2003 – A 41-year-old man is arrested but released without charge
• December 2003 – Searches in Furnace Lane, Finedon, which lasted for several days and included the seizing of some exhibits
Anyone who may have any information about the disappearance of Sarah can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Alternatively, you can use the anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org