Detectives investigating suspected murder of 14-year-old girl who went missing 21 years ago are set to begin digging area of land in Kettering after receiving ‘significant intelligence’

  • Sarah Benford was last seen in the Kettering area of Northamptonshire in 2000
  • A murder investigation was launched three years after she disappeared
  • A number of suspects have been arrested but nobody has ever been charged
  • Searches are set to begin on an area of open space land in the Valley Walk area 

Detectives are set to begin digging an area of land in connection with the disappearance of a 14-year-old girl from a care home more than 20 years ago.

Sarah Benford was last seen in the Kettering area of Northamptonshire on April 6, 2000, before a murder probe was launched three years later.

Northamptonshire Police said they would begin excavating a 70-metre by 70-metre piece of land in the Valley Walk area of Kettering after receiving ‘significant intelligence’.

A number of suspects have been arrested since Sarah’s disappearance, and searches have been conducted in Kettering, London and Wales, but nobody has ever been charged.

Following intelligence obtained by the force’s Major Investigation Team, searches are set to begin on the area of open space today.

The site will be sealed off until the excavation, expected to last two weeks, is complete.

The force said specialist search teams will be assisted by forensic archaeologists, and penetration radar equipment will be deployed to assess any movement on the section of land under investigation.

Sarah Benford was last seen in the Kettering area of Northamptonshire on April 6 2000, before a murder probe was launched three years later

Police begin their dig in Kettering this morning as they continue their search for Sarah Benford who went missing in 2000

Dozens of officers will provide scene guard support throughout the dig and the area will be screened off from the public while the search is happening.

Detective Superintendent Joe Banfield who is leading the Northamptonshire Police operation, said: ‘We have received significant intelligence which has pointed us to this site as a possible area of interest.

‘Sarah went missing more than 21 years ago now, but we have never given up trying to find her body and, potentially, tracing her killer or killers.’

DS Banfield added: ‘We have informed Sarah’s family and they are supportive of the operation being carried out today. We will be in close contact with them as the excavation unfolds, but we request that members of the media do not try to contact them.

‘Clearly someone out there knows what happened to Sarah all those years ago and we would urge anyone with new information to contact us on 101 or, in confidence, via the Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555111.’

Police have said people with information relating to Sarah’s disappearance should contact them quoting incident number 359 of 10/11/2021.

Timeline of the investigation 

April 4, 2000 – Sarah, 14, absconds from Welford House children’s home in Welford Road, Northampton and returns to Kettering

April 6, 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

July 5, 2003 – Man arrested but released without charge

September 22, 2003 – Man arrested but released without charge

October 1, 2003 – A house in Kettering is searched

October 23, 2003 – Houses searched and further persons arrested from Nelson Street, Kettering. Nobody charged

October 26, 2003 – Flat in Hampden Crescent, Kettering, searched

November 27, 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.

March 15, 2016 – Detectives search in woods at Warkton Bridge

April 4, 2020 – Police issue an anniversary appeal 20 years on from Sarah’s disappearance. Calling the case a ‘live investigation’, Detective Sergeant Julie Gallagher, of Northamptonshire Police, said that, despite having no current suspects, officers believe somebody knows what the teenager’s last movements were

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