Sarah Benford: Police begin dig in search for girl, 14, who vanished 20 years ago

15 November 2021, 09:30 | Updated: 15 November 2021, 10:45

Sarah Benford went missing in April 2000
Sarah Benford went missing in April 2000. Picture: Northamptonshire Police

By Patrick Grafton-Green

"Significant intelligence" has led police to begin digging an area of land in the search for a 14-year-old girl who disappeared more than 20 years ago.

Sarah Benford vanished after leaving her care home in the Kettering area of Northamptonshire on April 6, 2000.

A murder probe was launched three years later.

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Northamptonshire Police confirmed today they would begin excavating a 70-metre by 70-metre area in the town.

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.

On Monday, following intelligence obtained by the force's Major Investigation Team, searches are set to begin on an area of open space land in the Valley Walk area of Kettering.

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.

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.

"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.