Update: Rawlings has now been released

1996: Nigel Rawlings, 33 of Edmondthorpe was found guilty of the rape and murder of 14-year-old Sarah Bottomley. He was sentenced to life with a minimum of 18 years

August 1996

Fathers grief over murdered daughter 

A Father whose teenage daughter was found murdered in a cornfield told yesterday of his last glimpse of the pretty youngster – in her new white jeans. 

“She was so happy with them and gave me a twirl to show me how they looked,” sobbed Mark Bottomley. 

The naked body of 14-year-old Sarah was discovered early on Monday – and last night police had few clues to how she died. 

A post-mortem failed to establish a cause of death and there were no signs of knife or gun wounds. It was not yet known if she had been sexually assaulted. 

Sarah – a “happy, lively” girl with many friends – had been missing from home in Oakham, Leics, for nearly a fortnight. 

Detectives think she may have stayed with her killer for several days. 

Sarah, whose parents lived apart, was being looked after by her father. And yesterday the 37-year-old dad made an impassioned plea for help to catch the murderer. 

“Someone must know her killer. Someone is hiding something. Someone may be scared,” said Mr Bottomley, breaking down in tears. “But I want them to come forward…please. 

“Please help us catch my daughter’s killer.” 

Mr Bottomley, a factory worker with two other children, had the grisly task of identifying Sarah’s badly decomposed body from bracelets she wore. 

The countdown to Sarah’s disappearance began when she went on a camping trip with friends. 

She returned home on Sunday, August 4, and went shopping to Peterborough on the Monday. 

It was then that she showed off her new white jeans to her dad. 

She was seen at about 6pm on the Monday evening, possibly with a group of youths, in Parkfield Road, Oakham. 

And the last confirmed sighting of her was at 2.30pm on Tuesday August 6 – heading towards a supermarket in Oakham. 

It was only on Wednesday the seventh that Mr Bottomley reported his daughter missing. 

He assumed she had gone to stay with her mother Carol, who lives in the nearby village of Wymondham with a new partner. 

She regularly took taxis there and had made friends in the village. Mr Bottomley only raised the alarm when he called Carol’s home and realised his daughter was not there. 

Sarah’s body was found under a hedgerow alongside a cornfield one mile from Wymondham by a gamekeeper walking his dog. 

Detectives carried out house-to-house inquiries yesterday in the shocked rural communities surrounding the scene. 

One mystery is that Sarah apparently changed her clothes between leaving home and the later sightings of her in Oakham. 

When she left her dad, she was in the white jeans and a tank-top. 

In Oakham, she was clad in black jeans and a satin jacket. Mr Bottomley said: “Sarah didn’t have any black jeans. I can’t understand where she got them from. 

“She left the house with pounds 5 and I thought she was going to her mum’s.” 

Police want to find out where rave music-fan Sarah went the night she disappeared. 

Det Supt Ian Stripp said: “We assume she stayed willingly with someone because she was seen the next day on her own.” 

He added: “I think the answer to this will lie here in the local community. Sarah knew a lot of people in Oakham.”