Soham murders: The clues that led police to Holly and Jessica's evil killer

by 24britishtvAug. 5, 2022, 7:20 a.m. 13
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Today, August 4, marks 20 years since schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman went missing after they left a family barbecue to buy sweets. Best friends Holly and Jessica were just 10 years old when their lives were cruelly cut short by deceitful murderer Ian Huntley.

After getting snacks from a vending machine at their local leisure centre, the pair walked past caretaker Huntley's house. He claimed his girlfriend Maxine, a teaching assistant at their school, was inside and lured them into his home before murdering them in cold blood.

Police descended on the small Cambridgeshire town of Soham during the summer of 2002 to try and find the missing schoolgirls. Their faces were plastered over every national and local newspaper, while more than 400 officers and countless members of the public were involved in the search.

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The hunt lasted for 13 days. On August 17, their bodies were found lying side by side near an air base at Mildenhall in Suffolk, about 10 miles from their home.

The distinctive clothing that led police to the girls

During the family barbecue, the girls changed into matching replica Manchester United football shirts - one belonged to Holly and the other belonged to her older brother Oliver - and they were photographed in the outfits by Holly's mum. The memorable image of the girls, hours before they disappeared, became central to the search.

Their distinctive outfits led to several alleged sightings of the girls. One man, who reported what he saw to the police, remembered seeing the girls on the day they went missing because he remarked to his wife: "Look! There's two little Beckhams over there."

Huntley and Carr were first questioned by police on August 16, twelve days after the children's disappearance. On the same night, police searched his house as well as and the grounds of Soham Village College where he worked.

The girls' Manchester shirts, which were charred and cut up, were recovered from a bin inside a hangar at the college. It was later revealed that Huntley had gone back to where he dumped the bodies to cut off their clothes in an attempt to destroy any DNA evidence. Fibres recovered from the shirts proved to be a precise match to samples retrieved from Huntley's body and clothing.

An inquest into their deaths was held on August 23. Coroner David Morris said the bodies of the girls were so badly decomposed that no precise cause of death could be determined, but the most likely cause of death was asphyxiation.

Huntley was already in the public eye during the search for the girls. He granted several television interviews to media outlets such as Sky News and the BBC, in which he spoke about being the last individual to see the children alive.

Police also recalled that Huntley, who was heavily involved in the search for the pair, would regularly ask officers questions about how their investigation was progressing and how long DNA evidence could survive before deteriorating.

In one interview with Sky News correspondent Jeremy Thompson, during the second week of the search, Huntley claimed to be holding on to a "glimmer of hope" that the children would be found safe and well.

But in one interview, Huntley gave such suspicious answers to a journalist that the reporter went to the police with his concerns. PA news agency reporter Brian Farmer interviewed Huntley and Carr at their home while the search for the girls was ongoing.

Huntley, who was reluctant to be photographed, explained that he had been speaking to the girls while washing his dog outside his house. But in his account provided to Mr Farmer, the girls made no comment about the animal, which Mr Farmer found improbable. “I simply couldn’t believe there were two children on earth who wouldn’t see the dog and be saying ‘oh that dog’s so cute, he’s so wonderful’,” he said. “I didn’t think what he was saying could be true.”

Mr Farmer, 61, said it was also strange that Huntley, who barely knew the girls, had jumped in when Carr was asked a question about stranger danger. “I asked her from her knowledge of Holly and Jessica how she thought they might have reacted if, for example, a man had pulled up alongside in a car and said: ‘Would you like a lift, girls?’ The odd thing was that she didn’t answer the question because Ian Huntley jumped in straight away and he answered the question."

Huntley told the journalist he thought "Holly would probably get in the car and quietly go, but Jessica wouldn’t," Mr Farmer said. “I remember thinking: ‘Why is he so agitated? Why is he so emotional?’ The main thing that struck me when he answered the question was, well, how can he possibly know how they would react?"

Where is Ian Huntley now?

On August 20, Huntley was charged with two counts of murder and later faced a trial at the Old Bailey. Now 48, Huntley is currently serving a life sentence for murder with a minimum of 40 years behind bars.

The killer will not be considered for release until 2042 at the earliest, and now resides in HMP Frankland, in Durham.

Huntley has had some high-profile run-ins during his time in prison. In 2005, while in HMP Wakefield, the killer was scalded with boiling water by convicted spree killer Mark Hobson. Two years after being transferred to HMP Frankland in 2008, Huntley was taken to hospital after he had his neck slashed by a convicted armed robber.

In 2017, it was revealed that he also had a run-in with Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, who called Huntley a "child killing b*****d" during an ­altercation at their Category A jail.

In 2018, it was reported that Huntley had expressed remorse at killing the schoolgirls. According to The Sun, he recorded a confession for the killings while behind bars. The paper reported that he said: “I am genuinely, genuinely sorry and it breaks my heart when it is reported I have no remorse; that I relish something. I do not. I can’t change anything. I cannot remove that day from history; what I have done."

Huntley was originally seen as a witness rather than a suspect when the girls first went missing, partly because Carr had provided an alibi for him and said that they were together. But it was later revealed that this was a lie and she had actually been out in a bar in Grimsby at the time the girls disappeared.

Carr, now 45, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in 2003 after being found guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice for giving Huntley his false alibi.

She was released from Foston Hall prison in Derbyshire in May 2004 after serving half her sentence. Today, she is enjoying a life of freedom and has been given a new identity after the High Court granted her lifelong anonymity.
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