Missing Paige 'may still be alive'
A 15-year-old alleged murder victim could still be alive eight years after her disappearance, a court has heard.
A jury at Preston Crown Court was told they could not rule out the possibility that Paige Chivers was not dead and could be living outside the UK.
Robert Ewing, 60, is said to have groomed the "very troubled and vulnerable" Blackpool youngster before he beat her to death, possibly with a hammer, and then disposed of her body,
But in his closing speech to the jury on behalf of Ewing, his barrister Stuart Denney QC suggested the "off the rails" and "wild" teenager had decided to run away and stay away.
He said: "If ever there was a girl who had motive and personality to disappear for good, that girl was Paige Chivers in August 2007.
"We are going to suggest, with reasons connected with her background, there were powerful reasons for Paige Chivers to finally leave home.
"Can I be sure she is alive? No I cannot but equally you cannot be sure she is dead either. The evidence is simply not good enough to make any rational, careful person be sure."
An extensive proof of life inquiry had not found any evidence Paige was alive and she had yet to claim a "significant" inheritance sum left to her on her mother's death once she turned 18, the jury heard.
The Crown has told the jury they can be sure Paige is dead even though no body has been found.
But Mr Denney said there are people who "badly" do not want to be in contact with the authorities for various reasons. He also pointed out that four separate, independent witnesses - including her brother - said they had seen Paige locally in the weeks after her supposed murder
He said: "How are you to exclude that Paige Chivers is not findable in the United Kingdom because she is elsewhere?
"All I say to you is the fact is if Paige Chivers or any 15-year-old wanted to disappear and stay disappeared she certainly could if she wished."
Addressing the inheritance, he said: "She knew there was something coming for her, yet she did not know how much it was.
"If she made a fresh start for herself in 2007 do you think it makes any sort of common sense to come back three years later. Her family have been distraught, the police have expended so much and she strolls back."
Ewing, formerly of All Hallows Road, Bispham, Blackpool, denies the murder of Paige between August 23 and August 27 2007.
He also denies intending to pervert the course of public justice by intimidating witnesses and providing false information to the police in their investigations.
A co-defendant, Gareth Dewhurst, 46, of Duncan Avenue, Blackpool, also denies intending to pervert the course of public justice.
Dewhurst has also pleaded not guilty to sexual penetration of a corpse and not guilty to assisting an offender in disposing of a body.
He is said to have told a 16-year-old boy that Ewing had killed Paige and then made him have sex with her corpse before forcing him to use his car to dispose of her body.
Paige was expelled from school at the age of 13 and by the time of her disappearance was not attending school at all, the court has heard.
She was said to have issues with drug-taking, drinking alcohol and under-age sexual activity.
Her mother, Sheila, had died in February 2007 and her father, Frank, was a drinker who was violent towards her.
On August 23, 2007, Paige packed two carrier bags of clothes and left her home in Longford Avenue, Bispham, following a row on the phone with her father about missing cash.
The Crown say Ewing had developed an "inappropriate sexual interest" in Paige, which the defendant denies.
Mr Denney said the Crown had presented a "carefully sketched picture of what might have been" in which sexual contact between the pair had taken place, Paige decided to make a complaint and Ewing "in a lather" killed her.
The barrister said: "There is a slight problem with all of that. The slight problem is there is no evidential basis for it whatsover."
He said the jury may think his client was an "unusual" and "odd" individual who held right-wing and racist views and was prone to boasting about sexual conquests, real or imaginary.
But that did not make him a murderer, he said.
He told jurors they needed to answer a number of questions - is Paige Chivers dead, did she die at a time when the defendant had the opporunity to kill her, how did she die, why did she die and what happened to the body?
The court has heard that Paige's father reported her missing on August 26 and clearly stated she was 15, but her date of birth was wrongly entered on the police system as 1962.
The matter was dealt with as though Paige was a 45-year-old who had moved on voluntarily and that approach was not corrected until September 7.
Mr Denney said that Paige had decided to run away and she had "ample time to do so".
Among the sightings of the teenager in September 2007 was an account from her brother Jack who told police that he returned from college and found Paige packing clothes in her bedroom
The Crown has suggested he was mistaken on the date because of his "chaotic" life at the time.
Mr Denney told the jury they would have to consider whether Paige may have run into trouble when she ran away.
He said: "There was no reason for Paige wanting to stay at home and every reason for her to want to leave. At the time she was off the rails and liable to get herself into serious difficulty."
He said that three small visible bloodstains belonging to Paige found in the inner hallway of his flat was not evidence of murder and were said not to be indicative that an attack took place.
Mr Denney said: "For a violent killing you would expect widespread blood. Are we saying that the defendant has carried out a meticulous clear-up and yet somehow having done all of that three visible spots were missed."
He went on: "Are you sure the defendant killed her? Here I ask you to bear in mind the complete absence of evidence as to what actually happened, according to the Crown. Everything they have said is speculation.
"This is a troubling case. Any case involving the disappearance of a 15-year-old and the possible killing of her is bound to trouble you.
"But nothing is achieved by a solution which does not follow the clear rules of evidence."
The trial continues on Monday.