Police still looking for Sarah ten years on – Still missing (2013)
Ten years after 14-year-old Sarah Benford went missing police have said they are still looking.
Sarah, of Havelock Street, Kettering, who would now be 24, disappeared on April 7, 2000, from a care home in Northampton
Sarah Benford was 14 when she vanished from Welford House children’s home in Northampton in April 2000. She was taken into care when her mother became worried about the drug addicts and criminals she had begun to associate with at home in Kettering. She is still missing, although police believe she is dead. A murder inquiry led to several arrests in 2003 but came to nothing. Sarah’s uncle, Stephen Cross, 43, of Corby, said the family lived in hope that she might still be alive. “We all wait for that knock on the door or that phone call, and we always will,” he said. “The family thinks there is still hope – that’s what keeps us going.”
He is still angry at how Sarah’s disappearance was treated by the authorities. “[The police] didn’t treat it seriously enough at the beginning,” he said. “Sarah was just another statistic to social services and the police, and to start with they didn’t care. Then with pressure from the family through the media they thought, ‘we’d better do something about this because it isn’t going to go away’. “There is a culture of secrecy when kids from care homes go missing.”
Mr Cross is haunted by memories of his niece. He added: “Several times I’ve seen someone that looked like Sarah and jumped out of the car to approach them, only to find they were not her.”
Iceland supermarkets put her photo on milk cartons and police followed up 100 possible sightings, but without success.
Police launched a murder investigation in 2003, and despite eight people being arrested in connection with the case Sarah was never found.
Speaking on the 10-year anniversary of the teenager’s disappearance, Detective Chief Inspector Neil McMahon, from the Investigations Directorate, said: “The investigation into the disappearance of Sarah Benford remains an open investigation.
“Sarah’s absence has been investigated as a murder inquiry and although the incident room in Sarah’s case is closed, we remain open to new lines of inquiry. “This is an unresolved matter and as such we are keen to respond to any new information that comes forward.”
Sarah had been living at Welford House Children’s Home in Northampton before she disappeared.
A police investigation was launched, involving thousands of police hours, which went from Kettering to London, then to Wales and back to Kettering again.
There were appeals in the media and on posters, bus shelters, lorries and milk cartons giving descriptions of Sarah – 5ft 7in tall, with blue/grey eyes and a self-made tattoo of a cross on the top of her left arm.
In the search for Sarah, homes have been searched, gardens dug up and remote tracks combed for clues as to where she could be.
Eight people were arrested but not charged, but police do not know where Sarah is, or whether she is still alive.
The police believe Sarah is likely to have been murdered in the early days of her disappearance.
It is also believed she became addicted to heroin and may have worked as a prostitute to fund her habit.
Almost 5,000 lines of inquiry were followed, with 663 statements made and 918 reports collated in what was the biggest missing person search Northamptonshire police had seen in 20 years.
If anyone has information on Sarah call police on 03000 111222 or Crimestoppers on 0845 33 00 222.