The scope of giant Kettering search for Sarah Benford

Since today. Image by Andrew Carpenter.

These aerial photos show the extent of the huge Kettering police operation to find Sarah Benford’s body.

The carefully planned operation, which has involved months of work, comes after Northamptonshire police received a tip from a ‘credible source’ that Sarah is buried there. She disappeared as a 14-year-old in 2000, but her body has never been found and no one has ever been charged with the murder of her.

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Since today. Image by Andrew Carpenter.

Detective Inspector Joe Banfield, who is leading the operation, told this newspaper that they expect to find her body within the next two weeks.

Yesterday, officers spent the day taping the area off, putting fences and nets around it to shield it from the public and mapping irregularities in the country – areas that are different from those around it, which could indicate ground movement.

Today (Tuesday), a digger has moved into the site, and police are currently working on the northeastern area under investigation, near the public footbridge across the River Ise. A narrow canal has been dug up just a few meters behind a bench.

Markings have also been made around several other areas, indicating that it will be sections that will be excavated.

Sarah, depicted as a primary school student

Each anomaly will be taken one by one, with ground penetration radar equipment used in the operation. Forensic teams will also use hand tools and trowel to dig.

The new police operation, which will involve more than 70 officers and round-the-clock guards, comes according to a multi-body plan between the police and the Armed Forces’ Science and Technology Laboratory. Plans were drawn up following visits from forensic experts, studies, historical photos and flyovers.

This afternoon, officers have yet to find anything to notice.

The investigation into Sarah’s disappearance, the force’s biggest cold case ever, began after she disappeared from Northampton Orphanage Welford House at the age of 14 on April 6, 2000. It was upgraded to a 2003 homicide investigation.

Since today. Image by Andrew Carpenter.

She was let down by the authorities, who failed to see her as a victim of the exploitation of drug dealers and sex offenders. A serious case review completed in 2004 showed that the county council’s child services department was understaffed and that Sarah was not assessed as she should have been. The day she disappeared, she called her mother Vicki, high on drugs, but police rejected her mother’s hectic plea that they pick her up and take her back to the orphanage.

Despite more than 5,000 lines of investigation and eight arrests, no one has been brought to justice for Sarah’s disappearance or murder.

Yesterday, The Supt Banfield told this newspaper that they had no current suspects.

He said: “I am aware that someone locally knows how she died and someone locally knows who killed her.

That Supt Joe Banfield

“I want to encourage these people to stand up 20 years later and tell us what they know.”

Northamptonshire Police have set up an incident number for anyone with information about Sarah’s disappearance who should call 101. The incident number is 359 of 10/11/2021.

Police at the scene yesterday

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