Soham murders

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Jessica Chapman
Holly Wells
Chapman (left) and Wells (right), summer 2002
BornJessica: (1991-09-01)1 September 1991
Holly: (1991-10-04)4 October 1991
DiedBoth c. 4 August 2002(2002-08-04) (aged 10)
Soham, Cambridgeshire, England
Body discovered17 August 2002
Lakenheath, Suffolk, England
Resting placeSoham Cemetery, Cambridgeshire, England
52°19′36″N 0°20′47″E / 52.32662°N 0.34642°E / 52.32662; 0.34642 (approximate)
Known forVictims of child murder

The Soham murders are a double child murder committed in Soham, Cambridgeshire, England on 4 August 2002. The victims were two 10-year-old girls, Holly Marie Wells and Jessica Aimee Chapman, who were lured into the home of a local resident, Ian Kevin Huntley,[1] who subsequently murdered the children—likely via asphyxiation—before disposing of their bodies in an irrigation ditch close to RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk. The girls' bodies were discovered on 17 August 2002.[2]

Huntley was convicted of the murder of both girls on 17 December 2003 and sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment, with the High Court later imposing a minimum term of 40 years. His girlfriend, Maxine Ann Carr—the girls' teaching assistant—had knowingly provided Huntley with a false alibi.[3] She received a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for conspiring with Huntley to pervert the course of justice.[4]

The efforts made to locate Holly and Jessica in the thirteen days of their disappearance have been described as one of the most intense and extensive in British criminal history.[5][6]


At 11:45 a.m. on Sunday, 4 August 2002, Jessica Chapman left her home in Brook Street, Soham, to attend a barbecue at the home of her best friend, Holly Wells, in nearby Redhouse Gardens.[6][7] Prior to leaving her home, Chapman informed her parents of her intention to also give her friend a necklace engraved with the letter H she had purchased for her on a recent family holiday to Menorca.[6]

The two girls and a friend named Natalie Parr played computer games and listened to music for approximately half an hour[8] before Parr returned home.[9] By 3:15 p.m., both girls had changed into distinctive replica Manchester United football shirts; one of which belonged to Wells and the other to her older brother, Oliver.[10] At 5:04 p.m., a photograph of the two friends was taken by Wells' mother before the children ate dinner with the other house guests. They then returned to playing in Wells' bedroom at approximately 6:10 p.m.[6][8]

At approximately 6:15 p.m., the two girls left the Wells residence without informing any of the house guests to purchase sweets from a vending machine at the local sports centre. While returning to 4 Redhouse Gardens,[11] Wells and Chapman walked past the College Close home of Ian Huntley, the senior caretaker at the local secondary school. Huntley evidently lured the girls into his house, stating that his girlfriend, Maxine Carr—the girls' teaching assistant at St Andrew's Primary School—was also present in the house. (Carr was actually visiting her mother in Grimsby, Lincolnshire on this date.[12])

The precise chain of events to occur after the girls entered 5 College Close is unknown, although investigators believe sections of Huntley's later claims in initial interviews granted to the media prior to his arrest and his later trial testimony—such as that he had been cleaning his dog at the time the girls passed by his house at approximately 6:30 p.m. and that one girl had been suffering from a mild nosebleed—may have actually been true.[13] In any event, the cause of death of both girls was later ruled to be asphyxiation.[14][15] Chapman's Nokia mobile phone was switched off at 6:46 p.m.[16]

At 8:00 p.m., Nicola Wells entered her daughter's bedroom to invite the girls to say goodbye to her house guests, only to discover both children were missing from their home. Alarmed, she and her husband, Kevin, searched their house and nearby streets. Minutes after their daughter's 8:30 p.m. curfew had expired, Nicola Wells phoned the Chapman residence to determine if the girls were at this location, only to learn Leslie and Sharon Chapman were becoming concerned why their youngest daughter had not returned home.[17] Following subsequent frantic efforts by the families of both girls to locate their daughters, Wells and Chapman were reported missing by their parents at 9.55 p.m.[18]


Police immediately launched an intensive manhunt to locate the missing children.[19] Over 400 officers were assigned full-time to search for the girls.[20] These officers conducted extensive house-to-house enquiries across Soham;[21] their efforts to search local terrain were bolstered by the assistance of hundreds of local volunteers[22] and, later, United States Air Force personnel stationed at nearby airbases.[23][n 1]

To assist in their public appeals for information, Cambridgeshire Police released the photograph Nicola Wells had taken of the children less than two hours before their disappearance depicting both girls wearing distinctive Manchester United replica football shirts. A physical description of each girl was also released to the media, describing both girls as being white, approximately 4 ft 6 in (137 cm) in height, and slim. Chapman was described as being tanned, with shoulder-length, brown hair; Wells was described as being fair, with blonde hair.[25] The parents of both girls were adamant their daughters had been wary of talking with strangers, having warned them not to trust individuals they did not know from early childhood. This insistence was supported by the headteacher of St Andrew's Primary School, who informed reporters: "The possible danger from strangers is something we have impressed upon [the children] from an early age."[26]

Suspecting the children had been kidnapped, investigators questioned every registered sex offender in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.[27] Over 260 registered sex offenders across the UK—including fifteen high-risk paedophiles—were also questioned, although all were eliminated from the enquiry.[28] Police also investigated the possibility that the girls had arranged to meet with an individual either or both had contacted via an internet chat room, although this possibility was soon discounted.[29]

On 8 August,[30] CCTV footage of the girls, recorded minutes before their disappearance, was released to the public. This footage depicted the children arriving at the local sports centre at 6:28 p.m.[31][n 2] A televised reconstruction of the children's last known movements was also broadcast nationally on 10 August,[33][34] and both sets of parents granted an interview with presenter Colin Baker on ITV's current affairs programme Tonight, which was broadcast on 12 August.[35] Other family members and friends of both girls also appealed via the media for the safe return of the children.[36] These appeals for information regarding the whereabouts of Wells and Chapman would see more than 2,000 phone calls and tips received from the public, with all information obtained entered into the investigation's HOLMES 2 database.[37][n 3] A candlelight vigil was held by the community on 7 August.[40]

Shortly after the children's disappearance, Staffordshire Police contacted their counterparts to report their suspicions the girls' likely abduction may be linked to an abduction which had occurred in their jurisdiction the previous year, in which a six-year-old girl had survived an indecent assault by an abductor who was still at large and whose green Ford Mondeo was identified as having number-plates which had earlier been stolen in Peterborough. The individual responsible for this abduction and assault was also believed to have followed a 12-year-old girl in the same area, although in this instance, his car had been fitted with number-plates which had been stolen in Nottinghamshire.[28] The same vehicle had recently been sighted in Glatton, Cambridgeshire. This information was later included in a televised appeal pertaining to the children's disappearance on the BBC's Crimewatch, although this potential lead ultimately failed to bear fruition or relevance.[41]


Several members of the public reported having seen the children in the early days of the investigation. One individual, Mark Tuck, informed investigators that as he had driven past the girls upon Sand Street in Soham town centre at approximately 6:30 p.m. on 4 August,[42] his attention had been drawn toward their Manchester United replica shirts, causing him to remark to his wife, Lucy: "Look! There's two little Beckhams over there."[43] A young woman named Karen Greenwood also reported seeing the girls walking "arm in arm" along College Road approximately two minutes later.[8] Another woman living in the nearby village of Little Thetford claimed to have seen two girls whose appearance and clothing matched those of Wells and Chapman walking past her home the morning after the children had been reported missing.[44] Police also received statements regarding a white van that had been seen in Soham on the evening of the children's disappearance. Investigators located and seized this vehicle from a caravan park in Wentworth on 7 August, although this lead ultimately proved fruitless.[37]

On 12 August, police launched a media appeal to trace the driver of a four-door, dark green saloon car seen struggling with two young girls by a taxi driver who stated he had observed this individual "thrashing his arms" as he struggled to either placate or contain two female children inside his vehicle as he had driven upon the A142 south of Soham towards Newmarket on the early evening of 12 August. The following evening, a jogger alerted police to two mounds of recently disturbed earth he had encountered at Warren Hill, just outside Newmarket.[45] The initial speculation by this individual had been that these mounds of earth may be the impromptu burial locations of the two missing girls. However, an overnight examination of this location revealed the two mounds of earth to simply be badger setts.[46]

One individual who claimed to have spoken with the girls immediately before their disappearance was 28-year-old Huntley, who informed investigators on 5 August he had engaged in a brief conversation with both girls on his doorstep the previous afternoon.[47][n 4] According to Huntley, Wells and Chapman had briefly enquired as to whether his partner, Carr, had been successful in a recent application for a full-time teaching assistant position at their school.[49] When he had replied Carr had been unsuccessful, one of the girls had said, "Tell her we're sorry" before both children had walked along College Street in the direction of a bridge leading towards Clay Street.[50] Police were suspicious of Huntley's account of the children's disappearance. His house was searched by a single police officer on 5 August. Although no incriminating evidence was discovered on this date, this officer noticed numerous items of clothing upon the washing line despite the fact it had been raining. In reference to the evident extensive cleaning of the house's interior, Huntley stated: "Excuse the dining room. We had a flood."[51][n 5] This officer was unconvinced by Huntley's claims and suspicious of his agitated demeanour, and he remained a strong suspect.[53]

One day later, on 6 August, Huntley drove from Soham to Grimsby to pick up Carr. Shortly before the two returned to College Close,[54] a neighbour of Carr's mother named Marion Clift observed the couple standing at the rear of the vehicle, with the boot open. According to Clift, a "pale, shaking"[55] Huntley had simply gazed into the boot for several moments, while Carr stood alongside him, her head bowed, weeping. When Huntley became aware of Clift's presence, he had abruptly closed the boot.[51]

I don't know the girls. I was stood on the front doorstep grooming my dog down. She'd run away and come back a bit of a mess ... they just came across and asked how [Maxine] was ... I just said she weren't very good as she hadn't got the job and they just says please tell her that we're very sorry and off they walked; in the direction of the library over there.[56]

Ian Huntley, interviewed by Sky News correspondent Jeremy Thompson. 15 August 2002[57]

Media interviews[edit]

In the weeks following the disappearances, Huntley reluctantly[58] granted several television interviews to media outlets such as Sky News and the regional BBC News programme, BBC Look East, speaking of the general shock in the local community and his apparent dismay at being the last individual to see the children alive.[59]

By the second week of the children's disappearance, Huntley had become an unofficial spokesman for the community of Soham. His explanation for this was that he wanted to convey to the media the frustration and despair the community was feeling.[60] In one interview granted to Sky News correspondent Jeremy Thompson during the second week of the search, he claimed to be holding on to a "glimmer of hope"[57] the children would be found safe and well, claiming that he had last seen the girls walking in the direction of a local library.[61]

Carr was also interviewed by the press during the second week of the search for the children.[57] In this live interview, Carr corroborated Huntley's claims to have conversed with the children on their doorstep as she had been bathing before both girls had walked away from their doorstep, adding: "I only wish we had asked them where they were going ... if only we knew then what we know now. Then we could have stopped them, or done something about it."[62]

Discussing the individual personalities of each girl, Carr described Wells as being the "more feminine" of the two, adding that Chapman was "more of a tomboy"[63] and that on one occasion, she had jokingly remarked to Chapman how, unlike many of her friends, she seldom wore a skirt. To this question, Carr stated that the child had expressed her desire to be a bridesmaid at her own future wedding, adding that Chapman had said she would willingly wear a dress for such an occasion.[64] Carr also displayed a thank-you card to this reporter which had recently been given to her by Wells on the last day of the school year. Referring to Wells in the past tense, Carr stated, "She was just lovely, really lovely", before making a direct appeal to the children: "Just get on the phone and just come home. Or if somebody's got them, just let them go."[61][n 6]

By the second week of the children's disappearance, Huntley had begun to lose weight and was displaying visible symptoms of insomnia.[66] To one officer, he said: "You think I've done it? I was the last person to see them!" before beginning to weep. His erratic and distressful behaviour led to him being prescribed anti-depressants on 13 August.[67]

Police suspicions[edit]

Having actively participated in the search for the children, Huntley regularly asked police officers questions such as how their investigation was progressing and just how long DNA evidence could survive before deteriorating.[22] One of these officers observed three vertical scratches upon Huntley's left jaw, each measuring approximately three centimetres, which he claimed had been recently inflicted by his dog.[55]

On 16 August, twelve days after the children's disappearance, Huntley and Carr were first questioned by police. Both were questioned for approximately seven hours. Each provided formal witness statements to investigators before being placed in a safe house in the village of Histon.[68] By this date, police had received information from several Grimsby residents who had recognised Huntley in the television interviews he had granted to the media; these individuals recalled that he had been accused of rape several years earlier. Other individuals recalled that, contrary to her own televised claims, Carr had in fact been socialising in Grimsby town centre on the night that the girls had disappeared, and not at home in Soham as she had indicated in the interview she had granted to the media.[69]

Soham Village College. Police discovered charred remnants of the children's clothes at this location on 16 August[70]

The same evening, police conducted a thorough search of both 5 College Close and the grounds of Soham Village College where Huntley worked as a senior caretaker[71] as the couple remained under police watch at separate locations outside Soham. Although each room of Huntley's home had evidently been recently and meticulously cleaned[72] with what was later described as being a "lemony" cleaning fluid,[73] these searches located numerous items declared as being of "major importance" to the ongoing investigation. Although the evidence and artifacts were not made public at the time, the items recovered from the school grounds included items of clothing the girls had been wearing when last seen, including their charred and cut Manchester United shirts, which were recovered from a bin within a hangar at Huntley's place of work.[74][n 7] Fibres recovered upon these items of clothing proved to be a precise match to samples retrieved from Huntley's body and clothing, as well as from 5 College Close. Furthermore, his fingerprints were recovered from the bin.[22]

Huntley's car was also subjected to a detailed forensic examination on 16 August. The forensic examination of this vehicle revealed the car had also been recently, extensively cleaned, although traces of a distinctive mixture of brick dust, chalk and concrete of precisely the same type used to pave the road leading to where the girls' bodies would be discovered were found around the wheel arches and upon and around the pedals.[22] Furthermore, a cover from the rear seat was missing, and the lining of the boot had been recently removed and replaced with an ill-fitting section of household carpet.[73][n 8]


Having discovered the children's clothes at Soham Village College,[76] police decided to arrest Huntley and Carr. Both were arrested on suspicion of abduction and murder at 4:30 a.m. on 17 August.[77] Although investigators had previously (on 7 August) publicly stated they strongly believed the children had been abducted,[37] they publicly announced their strong suspicions both girls had been murdered on this date.[78][79]

During initial questioning, Huntley refused to answer questions and appeared evasive, confused, and emotionally detached; occasionally drooling throughout police attempts to question him in an effort to feign symptoms of mental illness.[80] This tactic left police with no option but to initially refer Huntley to a mental hospital to undergo an extensive psychological evaluation.[21]

By contrast, Carr quickly confessed to detectives she had lied about her whereabouts and her partner's actions on 4 August as, shortly before she had returned to Soham from Grimsby three days later, Huntley had claimed to her in a phone call to have seen the two girls shortly before their disappearance, admitting: "The thing is, Maxine, they came in our house!"[81] According to Carr, Huntley then informed her the children had entered their home in order that Wells could stanch her nosebleed. He then claimed to her Chapman had sat upon their bed as he had helped Wells control the bleeding from her nose before both girls had left their home. Referencing one of the 1998 rapes he had committed but had earlier claimed to her to have been falsely accused of in this phone call, Huntley then began voicing concerns as to again being falsely accused of involvement on this occasion, also claiming his previous arrest had caused him to suffer a nervous breakdown.[82] She had therefore later agreed to concoct a false story with her partner to support his version of events.[51]

After being informed of the discovery of the children's bodies and the ample evidence attesting to Huntley's guilt, including his fingerprints being recovered from the bin in which the children's clothes had been found, Carr burst into tears, shouting: "No! He can't have been! It can't have been! He hasn't done it!"[83] Despite these revelations, Carr initially remained emotionally attached to Huntley and professed her belief in his innocence to both the police and her family.[84]


At approximately 12:30 p.m. on 17 August,[85] a 48-year-old gamekeeper named Keith Pryer discovered the bodies of both girls lying side by side in a five feet deep irrigation ditch close to a pheasant pen near the perimeter fence of RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk;[86] a location more than 10 miles east of Soham.[87] Pryer had noticed what he later described as an "unusual and unpleasant smell"[88] in the vicinity several days earlier; when returning to the area with two friends on 17 August, he had decided to investigate the cause of this odour.[89] Walking through an overgrown verge approximately 600 yards from a partially tarmacked road, Pryer and one of his companions, Adrian Lawrence, discovered the children's bodies. Immediately upon viewing the corpses, Lawrence turned in the direction of his girlfriend, Helen Sawyer, and shouted: "Don't come any closer, Helen! Get back in the van!"[90] Lawrence immediately reported the discoveries to police.[91]

Both girls had been missing for thirteen days when their bodies were found, and both corpses were in an advanced state of decomposition.[61] In an apparent effort to destroy forensic evidence, the murderer or murderers had attempted to burn both bodies.[92] In addition, no clear footprints were discovered at the crime scene.[93][n 9]

Despite the efforts of the perpetrator(s) to destroy evidence and hinder identification, investigators rapidly deduced who the two victims most likely were, and that both had not died at the location of their discovery.[94] Numerous hairs later determined to belong to Chapman were also discovered on a tree branch close to the location of the girls' bodies.[95][n 10]

The following day, a Cambridgeshire Deputy Chief Constable named Keith Hodder released a press statement to the media confirming the discovery of the children's bodies, adding that both families had been informed of the developments and that although positive formal identification would take several days, investigators were as "certain as [they] possibly could be" the bodies were those of Wells and Chapman.[97]

Ely Cathedral. A service to remember and celebrate the lives of the children was held at this location on 30 August 2002[98]


On 21 August, the bodies of both girls were conclusively identified via DNA testing.[94][99] Nine days later, a public memorial service was held at Ely Cathedral to remember and celebrate the lives of both girls.[100] This service was attended by approximately 2,000 people, including the girls' classmates, teachers and the six family liaison officers who had provided 24-hour service for both families.[98] The Reverend Tim Alban Jones officiated at this service, informing all present: "Would not the best and most lasting memorial to these two lovely young girls be a change for the better in how we behave towards each other? Today's service is a small milestone in our shared journey of grief and sorrow ... it is our hope that we may perhaps draw a line under one phase of our grieving and begin to look forward."[101]

An online book of condolence attracted more than 31,000 messages of grief and sympathy[102] and on 24 August, football clubs across Britain held a minute's silence prior to commencing scheduled football matches.[103]


The formal inquest into the children's deaths was held at Shire Hall, Cambridge, on 23 August 2002.[10] At this hearing, coroner David Morris testified the bodies of both girls were partially skeletonized, and that no precise cause of death could be determined for either decedent, although Morris stated that the most likely cause of death of both girls had been asphyxiation.[1] Furthermore, Morris stated the girls had almost certainly not died at the location where their bodies had been discovered,[94] and that both bodies had been placed at this location within 24 hours of their deaths.[76][n 11] These conclusions were physically supported by an analysis of the shoots of nettles located at the crime scene which enabled forensic ecologist and palynologist Patricia Wiltshire to approximate that the actual time the bodies had been placed at this location had been almost two weeks prior.[96]

Formal charges[edit]

By 20 August, investigators had established sufficient physical evidence from Huntley's home, vehicle and Soham Village College to charge him with two counts of murder.[102] He was formally charged with these offences while detained for observation at Rampton Secure Hospital, and all preliminary hearings against him were postponed until the conclusions of his mental health assessment.[105] Carr was also charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice on this date.[106][n 12] She was further charged with two counts of assisting an offender on 17 January 2003.[21]

While held on remand at Holloway Prison,[108] Carr regularly enquired as to Huntley's welfare,[109] and is known to have penned several letters in which she professed her continued love for him.[110] Carr would only sever all contact with Huntley in December 2002.[111]

Mental health assessment[edit]

To determine Huntley's state of mental health, he was detained under Section 48 of the Mental Health Act for almost two months at Rampton Secure Hospital. Here, his mental state was extensively assessed by Dr Christopher Clark, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, to determine whether he suffered from any form of mental illness and whether he was mentally competent to stand trial. Clark concluded in October that, although psychopathic,[112] Huntley did not suffer from any major mental or psychotic illness.[113][114] Resultingly, on 8 October, Huntley was deemed mentally competent to stand trial.[114]

Although Mr Huntley made clear attempts to appear insane, I have no doubt that the man currently, and at the time of the murders, was both physically and mentally sound and therefore, if he is found guilty, carried out the murders totally aware of his actions.

Dr. Christopher Clark. Consultant forensic psychiatrist reciting the conclusions of his assessment of Ian Huntley's mental state (2002)[113]

Having been declared mentally fit to stand trial, Huntley was faced with a sentence of life imprisonment if a jury could be convinced of his guilt.[115] He was subsequently transferred to a segregation unit at Woodhill prison in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. On 9 June 2003, he attempted suicide by consuming 29 antidepressants which he had accumulated in his cell. Although staff initially feared Huntley might die as a result of this overdose,[116] he was returned to his prison cell within 48 hours. Huntley was later transferred to London's Belmarsh prison.[117]


The funeral services for Wells and Chapman were conducted on consecutive days in September 2002. Services for both girls were held at St Andrew's parish church and both were officiated by the Reverend Tim Alban Jones. Both girls were laid to rest in private ceremonies attended by only family and close friends. At the request of both families that their privacy be respected, the media refrained from reporting upon either service.[118][119]

Pretrial hearing[edit]

At a preliminary hearing held at the Old Bailey on 16 June 2003, Huntley pleaded not guilty to the formal charges of murdering Wells and Chapman, although he chose to plead guilty to the charge both stood accused of: conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Carr pleaded not guilty to the charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice and assisting an offender.[120]


The trial of Huntley for the murders of Wells and Chapman opened at the Old Bailey on 5 November 2003 before Mr Justice Alan Moses; Huntley was charged with two counts of murder, to which he entered a plea of not guilty. Carr was charged with two counts of assisting an offender and one count of perverting the course of justice.[76]

In his opening statement on behalf of the Crown, prosecutor Richard Latham QC described the last day of the friends' lives and how, by "pure chance", they had happened to pass by Huntley's home at a time when Carr was not present. Latham contended Huntley had deliberately lured the girls into his home at approximately 6:37 p.m.[121] and that both girls had been murdered shortly thereafter, with cell site analysis proving Huntley had switched off Chapman's mobile phone either outside his home or within the grounds of Soham Village College after both girls had been murdered.[122] Latham further emphasised that mobile phone records and eyewitness accounts proved Carr had been in Grimsby on the evening in question,[123] thus proving the statements she had given to police and press alike had been false. Latham then outlined the details of how Keith Pryer and his two friends had discovered the children's bodies on 17 August[124] at a location Huntley had known to be restricted via his plane spotting hobby and thus where they were unlikely to be discovered.[125]

Referencing the likely motive for the girls' murder and the actual cause of death of each decedent, Latham stated that due to the extensive state of decomposition of the bodies, the coroner had been unable to determine the precise cause of death of either child, or whether the girls had been sexually assaulted before or after death. However, Latham stated neither body showed signs of compressive neck injuries, knife wounds, drugging or poisoning, and that both girls had most likely died of asphyxiation.[76]

In a direct reference to Huntley's claims both girls' deaths had been accidental, Latham stated that "only one person knows what happened" after the friends entered his home.[6] However, he further stressed the cause of death was undoubtedly murder, adding: "Ten-year-old girls don't just drop dead."[76] In reference to Carr's attempts to pervert the course of justice, Latham stated that "as surely as night follows day" the two had conspired to concoct a false alibi to divert suspicion from Huntley,[76] although he warned the jury Carr could only be convicted of assisting an offender if they believed she had known Huntley had murdered the girls, adding her actual motive for providing lies to police with reference to the charge of perverting the course of justice was irrelevant.[76]

Over the course of three days, Latham outlined the efforts of both defendants to divert suspicion away from Huntley, and Huntley's own efforts to destroy all physical and circumstantial evidence linking him to the crime,[22] although despite these efforts, investigators had retrieved enough evidence to prove the children had been murdered within his home and—within approximately twelve hours of their deaths—transported in his vehicle to the location where their bodies would be discovered on 17 August. This had included ample fibre evidence retrieved from Huntley's vehicle, clothes and carpets which had been a "precise match" to the Manchester United shirts the girls had been wearing at the time of their disappearance.[126] Latham then closed his opening statement by again bringing the jury's attention to Huntley's claim both deaths had been accidental, remarking, "We pose this question: Two of them?" He then speculated Huntley's defence counsel may try and argue that he had been confused, commenting: "In that case, they would have to consider [Huntley's] behaviour over the fortnight between the girls' disappearance and their bodies being found."[127]

Testimony pertaining to the forensic evidence linking Huntley was heard on 24 November. On this date, a forensic scientist named Helen Davey testified as to the biological evidence recovered from the girls' clothing, footwear and a dishcloth discovered within the hangar at Soham Village College on 16 August.[128] Davey testified she had found minute traces of blood and saliva upon these garments, although she had found no positive traces of semen upon the clothing. She further explained the reason for the lack of any definitive traces of semen being discovered could have been a result of the charred and melted condition of the articles she had inspected. A scenes of crime officer also testified on this date that, despite Huntley's exhaustive efforts to remove any physical evidence of his crime from his home, a forensic examination had revealed several traces of blood spattering about the hallway and main entrance to the master bedroom.[129]

Defendants' testimony[edit]

On 1 December, Huntley testified before the court in his own defence. Responding to questioning by his own defence counsel, Stephen Coward QC,[130] Huntley admitted both girls had died in his house but denied that either death had been intentional. According to Huntley, he, Wells and Chapman had entered his bathroom to stem a mild nosebleed Wells had been suffering when the girls had walked by his home. The bath was already filled with water as he had been cleaning his dog that afternoon. In the bathroom, he had slipped and accidentally knocked Wells into his bath while helping her stanch her nosebleed, and this unintentional act had caused her to drown as he himself had simply "panicked and froze".[131] He further claimed Chapman had witnessed this accident and began repeatedly screaming, "You pushed her!"[132] and that he had then accidentally suffocated her while attempting to stifle her screaming, which had preoccupied his attention as opposed to ensuring Wells did not drown. By the time his state of panic had waned, it had been too late to save the lives of either of the children[47] and that his first coherent memory had been of himself sitting on his vomit-stained landing close to Chapman's body.[67]

When questioned as to his failure to call emergency services and subsequent, extensive efforts to both destroy evidence and divert suspicion from himself, Huntley insisted he had first become preoccupied with whether the police and public alike would believe the girls' deaths had actually been accidental, and he had therefore decided to conceal all evidence of the deaths as opposed to either notifying police or paramedics.[22] Weeping, Huntley admitted responsibility for both deaths, but repeated his insistence both deaths had been accidental. He further tearfully claimed he had not attempted to feign insanity upon his arrest; insisting the trauma of the children's deaths had temporarily erased his memory and his being in the presence of police had caused his mind to temporarily seize.[64]

On 3 December, Carr went into the witness box to testify in her own defence. Responding to questioning from her own defence counsel, Michael Hubbard QC, Carr briefly discussed her initial acquaintance with Huntley, their subsequent relationship and plans to start a family once they both obtained financial stability before Hubbard directed his questioning toward her return to Soham on 6 August and her discovering Huntley had recently washed their bedding and had evidently cleaned sections of the house. To these questions, Carr explained that her first impression had been that Huntley had "had a woman in the house", adding their bedding had been washed shortly before 4 August. Carr further testified to having noted a crack in the enamel of the bathtub which had not been there when she had travelled to Grimsby four days previously.[133] When questioned as to why she had then assisted Huntley in extensively cleaning their home in the days following the children's murder, Carr claimed she had done so as she had always been "obsessive about tidiness."[134]

Questioned as to the efforts she had subsequently made to mislead both police and the media to divert suspicion from her partner, Carr emphasised she had only lied to police, the media and "anyone who asks" to protect Huntley, who had repeatedly assured her of his innocence of any wrongdoing and his fear or being "fitted up"[135] by police for the girls' disappearance should they discover the 1998 rape allegation made against him.[136] She further claimed to have referred to Wells and Chapman using past tense merely because she had worked with the children in the past.[134]

Carr further claimed she had initially attempted to persuade Huntley to contact police and "be open" as to his claims to have invited the children into his home in order that Wells could stanch her nosebleed, but that he had refused to do so, as inviting children into their home had been a violation of the rules imposed by St Andrew's Primary School. She further explained her focus had therefore been to protect Huntley's job and reputation, adding that had she known of Huntley's actual guilt, she would never have attempted to provide him with a false alibi, stating to her counsel: "If, for a minute, I [had known] or believed he'd murdered either of those girls I would have been horrified."[19]

Concluding his questioning, Hubbard cautioned the jury not to succumb to the temptation of judging Carr's morality, but to consider her state of mind prior to her arrest when considering whether the lies she had told warranted any criminal liability, stating she had "done no wrong" on the date of the children's murder, and had not returned to Soham until 6 August.[137]

Closing arguments[edit]

On 10 December, counsel for both prosecution and defence delivered their closing arguments to the jury. Latham delivered his closing argument on behalf of the prosecution by describing both Huntley and Carr as "accomplished liars"[134] before outlining the prosecution's case both children had to die to satisfy Huntley's "selfish self-interest" before Huntley—with Carr's support—had embarked on twelve days of "cynical deception", with Carr only revealing the truth about her lies to police after being informed of the discovery of the children's bodies.[138]

Referencing Huntley's likely motive for the murders and his claims at trial that both deaths had been accidental, Latham stated: "We invite you to reject the accounts of both deaths [being accidental] as desperate lies; the only way out for him. We suggest that this whole business in the house was motivated by something sexual. But, whatever he initiated, plainly went wrong. Therefore, in this ruthless man's mind, both girls had to die in his own selfish self-interest." Referencing Carr's conscious efforts to deceive the police and media alike, Latham simply stated: "She had the prospect of marriage, a baby, a nice home and a new start. She preferred to do what she could to make the best of the position she was in. That involved at all costs protecting Ian Huntley."[139]

Following the conclusion of the prosecution's closing argument, Coward delivered his argument on behalf of the defence. He conceded his client was indeed guilty of physical responsibility for the girls' actual deaths—as Huntley had admitted—and therefore deserved punishment, although he argued the prosecution had failed to provide definitive proof Huntley had intended to murder the children or cause them actual bodily harm.[140] Furthermore, Coward contended the prosecution had failed to provide conclusive evidence to support their claim that Huntley's actual motive for the murders had been sexual. Coward concluded his closing argument by requesting the jury deliver a verdict of manslaughter in relation to both deaths.[141]

Your tears have never been for them; only for yourself. In your attempts to escape responsibility, in your lies and manipulation ... you have increased the suffering of two families. There is no greater task for the criminal justice system than to protect the vulnerable. There are few worse crimes than your murder of these two young girls.

Section of Mr Justice Alan Moses' sentencing of Ian Huntley. 17 December 2003[142]

Following the conclusion of both counsels' closing argument, Mr Justice Moses announced the jury would begin their deliberations on 12 December.[138]


The jury deliberated for four days before reaching their verdicts against both defendants.[143] On 17 December 2003, they returned a majority verdict of guilty on two counts of murder against Huntley. He was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of imprisonment to be imposed by the Lord Chief Justice at a later date.[15] Huntley's face displayed no emotion as the verdict was announced, although the mothers of both Wells and Chapman burst into tears.[142][144]

Although Carr willingly pleaded guilty to the charge of perverting the course of justice, she pleaded not guilty to the charge of assisting an offender. The jury accepted Carr's insistence that she had only lied to the police and media in order to protect Huntley because, prior to their arrest, she had actually believed his claims of innocence.[76] As such, she was found not guilty of assisting an offender. Carr was sentenced to serve three-and-a-half years in prison for perverting the course of justice.[145]

Minutes after the convictions, the parents of both girls granted an interview to the media. Discussing Huntley's mindset, Leslie Chapman opined: "I think he was a time bomb waiting to go off and both our girls were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hope the next time I see him, it will be like we saw our daughters—and it will be in a coffin."[146]


Huntley's actual motive for killing the children is unknown, although minutes prior to encountering Wells and Chapman, he is known to have engaged in a heated argument with Carr, culminating in his slamming the telephone down.[61] Huntley had allegedly suspected Carr of conducting affairs throughout their relationship, leading both his mother and some police officers to suspect Huntley had killed the two girls in a fit of jealous rage.[61] However, prior to his trial, a criminal profile had resulted in his being ruled by an eminent criminal psychologist as a "latent, predatory paedophile"[147] who had chosen to lure Wells and Chapman into his home upon a moment of opportunism.[13]

The prosecution had contended at Huntley's trial a likely sexual motive existed for the murders. Testimony from Carr had indicated her suspicions sexual activity had occurred in their home in her absence as, although Huntley had insisted throughout the entirety of their relationship that Carr perform all domestic chores, she had observed that he had washed the quilts, pillow cases and sheets of their bed in her absence.[13] However, pathological evidence retrieved from the bodies indicating at least one of the girls had been subjected to a sexual assault either before or after her murder was not disclosed to the jury at Huntley's trial. The reason for this decision had been that both bodies were too extensively decomposed and damaged by fire to enable a conclusive determination of either the actual cause of death or if either girl had been subjected to a sexual assault.[16]

Although prosecutors at Huntley's trial contended he had intentionally lured the children into his house with a likely sexual motivation, investigators found no evidence of premeditation in relation to the murders.[148] However, at the September 2005 hearing in which the minimum term Huntley should serve before any form of parole eligibility was decided, Mr Justice Moses stated: "There is a likelihood of [a] sexual motivation, but there was no evidence of sexual activity, and it remains no more than a likelihood."[4]


Prior to murdering Wells and Chapman, Huntley had established an extensive record of consensual and unconsensual sexual activity with females—many of whom had been beneath the legal age of consent. He would typically use guile and/or force to achieve his desires. Between 1992 and 2002, he had committed numerous acts of physical and sexual violence against women and children for which he had been legally unpunished.[149] The youngest girl Huntley is known to have raped had been 12 years old, with another girl he had attempted to rape being 11 years old.[150][n 13]

Following his arrest, several former girlfriends and sexual partners stated that, although Huntley presented himself as a charming and considerate individual in the early stages of a relationship, he would become domineering and violent upon having established a sense of control.[152] Having established control over his partner, Huntley severely restricted and supervised any contact she held with her family or social acquaintances. He would also emotionally blackmail his partner if he detected any signs of her developing resistance to his control or indicating a desire to leave him.[153]

According to one columnist, the fact that Huntley had remained unpunished for these often blatant and continuous acts had embellished Huntley's confidence and reinforced his domineering, misogynistic mindset in addition to fuelling his recidivism.[154] Psychologists have also determined Huntley has mentally blocked any attempts to accept either the reality or enormity of his actions pertaining to his repeated violence against females in order that he might cope with the consequences of his actions.[36]


The minimum term of imprisonment Huntley should serve before being considered eligible for parole was decided on 29 September 2005. On this date, High Court judge Mr Justice Moses announced that Huntley must remain in prison until he had served a minimum of 40 years' imprisonment; a term which would not allow parole eligibility until 2042, by which time Huntley would be 68 years old.[155] In setting this minimum term of imprisonment, Mr Justice Moses stated: "The order I make offers little or no hope of the defendant's eventual release."[156]

Huntley avoided eligibility for a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, as the passing of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 had been just one day after his conviction; thus taking effect on 18 December 2003 and applying solely to murders committed on or after this date.[157]

Ian Huntley[edit]

Ian Huntley
Ian Kevin Huntley portrait.jpg
Ian Kevin Huntley

(1974-01-31) 31 January 1974 (age 47)
Other namesIan Nixon
EducationHealing Comprehensive School
OccupationSchool caretaker
Criminal statusConvicted
Conviction(s)Murder (x2)
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment (40-year minimum term)

Ian Kevin Huntley was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, on 31 January 1974, the first of two sons born to Kevin Huntley and his wife, Lynda (née Nixon).[158] The Huntley family were working class and at the time of the birth of their first child, lodged with Lynda's parents in Grimsby. Following the birth of their second child, Wayne, in August 1975, the family moved into a rented property in Immingham, where Huntley attended school.[159]

Huntley was a timid child, and something of a mother's boy. In his early years, he frequently threw tantrums in order to obtain his mother's attention, although childhood friends would later remark how markedly afraid he was of his stern father.[160]

At both primary and secondary school, Huntley was an average scholar. He was regarded as a loner, an oddball and an attention seeker by his peers, and became a frequent target for bullies.[161] The bullying Huntley endured escalated when he entered Healing Comprehensive School at age 11, resulting in his academic performance waning. As a result, Huntley's parents enrolled their son in Immingham Comprehensive at age 13. He was again the target of physical and verbal bullying at this school, although he did form a few friendships via a shared interest in computer games.[162] Huntley also enjoyed football, and was an avid supporter of Manchester United.[13]

At the urging of his father, Huntley joined the Air Training Corps at age 13. His activities with this youth organisation fuelled an interest Huntley had held since childhood for aeroplanes, and he seriously considered a future career with the Royal Air Force. Huntley also developed a hobby of plane spotting. Via this hobby, he became familiar with the environs of RAF Lakenheath.[163]

Despite having few friends, Huntley did form several relationships with girls while attending Immingham Comprehensive. Each of these girls was at least one year younger than himself, although none of these relationships lasted longer than a few weeks.[164]

In 1990, Huntley finished his schooling, obtaining five GCSE passes. He chose not to enrol in college or university and instead committed himself to finding employment. Between 1990 and 1996, Huntley worked in a succession of menial jobs, although he seldom held any job for an extensive period of time.[165] He also viewed himself as something of a ladies' man, and was scrupulous with regard to his personal appearance and personal hygiene.[166]


In June 1994, Huntley began dating 18-year-old Claire Evans, with whom he first became acquainted through his employment at a local Heinz factory. After approximately two months of courtship,[162] Huntley proposed to Evans. The couple married at Grimsby Registry Office on 28 January 1995,[167] although the marriage lasted scarcely one week due to Huntley's volatile temper. On one occasion, he is known to have beaten his wife so extensively she suffered a miscarriage.[9] Shortly after their separation, Huntley's wife formed a relationship with and later married Huntley's younger brother, Wayne.[168]

Previous criminal offences[edit]

In March 1996, Huntley was charged with burglary. In this offence, he and an accomplice allegedly broke into the house of a neighbour in Grimsby and stole numerous electrical goods, jewellery and cash. Although this case reached court, the prosecution offered no evidence, resulting in a judge ordering the offence to lie on file.[169]

Between August 1995 and May 1996, Huntley established numerous sexual relationships with teenage girls, all of whom were under the legal age of consent. Three of these girls were aged 15, and one 13. One of these girls would become pregnant,[165] and gave birth to a baby girl in 1998.[13] Although reported to police on three occasions, Huntley was not charged for any of these offences as each of the girls denied having engaged in sex with Huntley. Each refused to file criminal complaints and/or rebuffed offers of help from social services.[170] Despite not being charged with any of these offences, rumours of Huntley's sexual interest in underage girls soon became community gossip, and he was regularly insulted by neighbours and colleagues. As a result, Huntley began rebuffing any offers to socialise with colleagues for fear of being attacked while alone in their company.[171]

In April 1998, Huntley was arrested on suspicion of raping an 18-year-old woman. He admitted engaging in sex with the claimant, but claimed the act had been consensual. He was not formally charged with this offence. Just one month later, Huntley was charged and remanded in custody at HM Prison Wolds for one week after another 18-year-old Grimsby woman claimed to have also been beaten and raped by Huntley while walking home from a local nightclub.[169] This complainant further stated Huntley had threatened to kill her before assaulting her. Huntley admitted engaging in sex with this woman, although he insisted the act had been consensual.[147] The criminal charge was dropped a week later after the Crown Prosecution Service, having examined CCTV footage from the nightclub and environs and finding evidence of the two socialising within the nightclub, determined insufficient evidence existed to secure a conviction for this offence.[13] As a result of this criminal complaint, further rumours regarding Huntley's sexual violence also became community gossip,[172] resulting in Huntley being fired from his job and forcing him to move into his mother's home. Furthermore, he was forbidden from initiating contact with his baby daughter or her mother.[47]

In July 1998, police were notified Huntley had also sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl in September 1997; having also threatened to kill the child if she informed her mother. He was never charged with this offence, although he subsequently confessed to this attack in April 2007.[9]

The final criminal allegation against Huntley prior to his committing the Soham murders dates from July 1999. In this instance, a woman was raped and Huntley–by this stage suspected by police as being a serial sex offender–was interviewed. Huntley supplied a DNA sample to assist in their enquiries, with Carr also providing an alibi to support his claims of innocence. The victim of this assault subsequently stated her belief that Huntley had not been the perpetrator of her assault. (This would prove to be the sole instance in which a suspected or proven victim of Huntley had not identified or named him as being her assailant.)[173][n 14]

By 2001, Huntley's proven and alleged criminal activities had been reported to Humberside Police on ten separate occasions and to the social services on five occasions.[13]

Acquaintance with Maxine Carr[edit]

In February 1999, Huntley became acquainted with 22-year-old Maxine Carr, whom he first encountered in a Grimsby nightclub. On this occasion, Carr had been drinking with a former boyfriend named Paul Selby when Huntley—a casual acquaintance of Selby—approached the two and immediately initiated a conversation.[175] According to Carr, she was "instantly attracted" to Huntley's self-certain and pleasant persona, and agreed to begin dating him that same evening.[168] Within four weeks of their acquaintance,[176] she had moved into Huntley's Barton-upon-Humber flat, and the couple informed relatives of their eagerness to start a family.[177] Shortly thereafter, the couple moved to a ground-floor flat in Scunthorpe, where Huntley formally proposed to Carr in June 1999.[178]

Although publicly a besotted couple, Huntley was notably possessive of Carr, and is known to have both emotionally abused and/or physically assaulted her on numerous occasions, often culminating in Carr returning to live with her mother before Huntley persuaded her to return to live with him.[171] Furthermore, both Huntley and Carr are known to have conducted affairs throughout the course of their relationship.[179] Noting how Carr often became flirtatious whenever she had consumed alcohol, Huntley actively sought to minimise any opportunity for her to drink or otherwise socialise outside his presence for fear of her cheating on him with other males.[16]

At the time of their acquaintance, Huntley temporarily worked for an insurance company in Market Rasen.[180] He soon found alternate employment at a finance company in Binbrook while Carr maintained her employment packing fish at a local fish processing factory. The couple would relocate to East Anglia in early 2001. Shortly thereafter, Huntley secured employment as a bartender in a local pub.[181][182]

By 2001, Huntley had re-established contact with his father,[n 15] who worked as a school caretaker in the village of Littleport, near Ely. He would regularly travel to Cambridgeshire from East Anglia on his days free from work to help his father, and soon developed aspirations to become a school caretaker himself. Via his father, Huntley learned of a school caretaker vacancy in nearby Soham Village College in the summer of 2001. He applied for and secured employment as a senior caretaker at this secondary school in September 2001, supervising the work of four other employees.[183]

Maxine Carr[edit]

Maxine Carr
Maxine Ann Capp[162]

(1977-02-16) 16 February 1977 (age 44)
OccupationTeaching assistant
Criminal statusReleased
Conviction(s)Perverting the course of justice
Criminal penalty42 months' imprisonment

Maxine Carr was born Maxine Ann Capp. She was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, on 16 February 1977, the second of two daughters born to Alfred Capp and his wife, Shirley (née Suddaby).[185]

The marriage between Capp's parents was marred by frequent arguments. Following a heated argument in the summer of 1979, Shirley ordered her husband to leave the household. Shortly thereafter, she and her daughters relocated to the village of Keelby. Alfred seldom maintained contact with his wife and children, and refused to provide any financial support for his daughters. Capp and her older sister, Hayley (born 1967), were largely raised by their mother and grandparents. The family regularly experienced severe financial difficulties, although Shirley would later state she "spoiled" her daughters to the best of her financial ability.[184]

As a child and adolescent, Capp was viewed by her peers as something of a timid outcast, with few friends.[186] She performed poorly academically, although she always held aspirations to become a teacher.[187]

By the time Capp entered adolescence, she was slightly overweight, leading her to become insecure about her physical appearance. Although she had shunned the company of boys as a child, as a teenager, she craved—but seldom received—the attention of boys her age, occasionally leading to bouts of binge eating[188] in addition to her developing the habit of self-harming.[189] By age 15, Capp weighed more than 10 stones, resulting in her becoming the recipient of bullying by her classmates. In an effort to lose weight, she developed a habit of forcing herself to vomit after eating.[110] This habit led to Capp developing anorexia by the age of 16, with her weight at one stage plummeting to just six stones, and her mother forcing her to eat in order for her to regain weight.[190]

In 1993, Capp finished her schooling, having obtained no qualifications. She briefly worked alongside her mother in a fish processing plant as she considered which career path she should choose before enrolling at the Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education, having chosen to study general care. Capp obtained her diploma in 1996. The same year, she and her mother moved from Keelby back to Grimsby. Shortly thereafter, she briefly obtained employment as a junior care assistant at a care home for the elderly in Grimsby before opting to return to work alongside her mother as a labourer at Bluecrest fish processing plant.[191]

Several of Capp's colleagues would later remark how they found her to be a distant and immature figure with few friends and few hobbies. To one colleague, Capp would talk incessantly about her dreams of leaving this employment and embarking on a teaching career.[191]

By the time Capp had obtained employment at Bluecrest, she had garnered sufficient courage to begin dating men, although none of these relationships lasted more than a few months.[192] Notably shy and reserved and prone to wear clothing which concealed her figure when sober, Capp became markedly flirtatious when having consumed alcohol, and is known to have occasionally engaged in exhibitionism in addition to frequently engaging in one-night stands with individuals she encountered in pubs and clubs.[190][n 16]

While Capp resided with her mother in Grimsby, she unofficially adopted the surname Benson.[194] She later legally changed her surname to Carr in an apparent effort to distance herself from her father.[190]

Soham employment[edit]

In September 2001, Huntley responded to a job advertisement relating to a vacant position of senior caretaker at Soham Village College. He applied for this position using the alias Ian Nixon.[195][n 17] No form of background check was conducted before or after this job interview,[80] and although Huntley lacked extensive experience in this form of employment, his application for this position was successful.[13] His employers assisted in his securing the tenancy of 5 College Close,[196] and he and Carr relocated to Soham in late September.[162] Huntley began his employment at Soham Village College on 26 November. He worked as a senior caretaker at these premises until the date of his arrest.[71]

In February 2002, Huntley secured part-time employment for Carr at St Andrew's Primary School, although Carr did lie as to her academic qualifications when applying for this position.[190] Although this employment was initially voluntary work, Carr later became a teaching assistant in the school's Year 5 class. Wells and Chapman became two of the pupils she taught,[16] and both girls were notably fond of her.[49]

In July 2002, Carr applied for a vacant full-time teaching assistant position at St Andrew's Primary School. She received notification on 23 July that her application was unsuccessful.[197] One of the children to express dismay at this decision was Wells who, having broken down in tears upon learning Carr's application for the teaching position had been unsuccessful, had presented her with a hand-drawn card,[198] depicting a smiling face, in which she stated: "I'll miss you a lot. Thank you! C ya! Miss ya! Luv Holly."[199]

Maxine Carr, seen here on 8 August 2002 displaying the hand-drawn card given to her by Holly Wells. This card was made approximately two weeks before the child's murder.[200]

Summer 2002[edit]

By the summer of 2002, the physical relationship between Huntley and Carr had begun to deteriorate. By Huntley's own later admission, he had become sexually frustrated, and he had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade a married colleague to date him on the weekend Carr visited her mother in Grimsby.[201]

At 9:53 a.m. on 4 August, Huntley attempted to phone Carr, although she did not answer her mobile phone. Carr only replied to his missed call at 6:23 p.m. This four-minute phone call escalated into a heated argument, culminating in Huntley angrily terminating the phone call after she informed him of her intentions to again socialise in Grimsby that evening. Four minutes later, Carr sent Huntley a text message which read: "Don't make me feel bad because I'm with my family."[16] Huntley did not reply to this message.[189]

Bichard enquiry[edit]

Immediately following Huntley's conviction, his previous criminal history was disclosed to the public. These disclosures revealed that, despite his extensive record of sexual offences against underage girls and young women and evident criminal recidivism, not only had police failed to pursue these previous criminal complaints and allegations, but Huntley had secured a position of employment facilitating his access to children.[202]

Upon learning of these public disclosures, Home Secretary David Blunkett announced a public enquiry into the intelligence-based record keeping and vetting system which had allowed Huntley to obtain employment as a school caretaker despite these previous criminal complaints, which had been reported to both police and social services. Chaired by Sir Michael Bichard, the Bichard enquiry opened on 13 January 2004.[144] The results of this enquiry were published in June that year.[203]

The stated purpose of the Bichard enquiry was:

Urgently to enquire into child protection procedures in Humberside Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary in the light of the recent trial and conviction of Ian Huntley for the murder of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells. In particular to assess the effectiveness of the relevant intelligence-based record keeping, the vetting practices in those forces since 1995 and information sharing with other agencies, and to report to the Home Secretary on matters of local and national relevance and make recommendations as appropriate.

One of the pertinent issues of concern to be scrutinised by the Bichard report surfaced almost immediately when Humberside Police stated their belief in it being unlawful under the Data Protection Act to hold data regarding criminal allegations which had not led to a conviction; this claim was criticised by other police forces who thought this too strict an interpretation of the Act. The enquiry severely scrutinised the actual investigation by Cambridgeshire Police into the children's disappearance and murder, as almost two weeks had elapsed following the disappearance of Wells and Chapman before Cambridgeshire Police became aware of Huntley's previous criminal background, despite his claims to be the last individual to see the children alive.[204] Further criticism was directed at the force for their initial failure to scrutinise Carr's claims to have been in Soham on the date of the children's disappearance.[205]

The enquiry also severely criticised Humberside Police for deleting information relating to the previous criminal allegations against Huntley and also criticised Cambridgeshire Police for not following standard vetting guidelines. Both the Humberside and Cambridgeshire Police were heavily criticised for their failings in maintaining criminal intelligence records on Huntley.[204]

Bichard later ordered the suspension of the Chief of Humberside Police, David Westwood, for ordering the destruction of criminal records pertaining to alleged child molesters which had not resulted in a conviction. (This suspension was later overturned.) Westwood retired from the position of Chief of Humberside Police in March 2005. The Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Tom Lloyd, was also subjected to severe criticism as his force had failed to contact Humberside Police during the investigation into Huntley's criminal background prior to his securing employment at Soham Village College.[206]

An added complication in these criminal vetting procedures was the fact that Huntley had applied for the caretaker's job under the name of Ian Nixon, although he did divulge upon the application form for this position that he was previously known as Ian Huntley. It is believed that Cambridgeshire Police failed to perform a background check under the name Huntley. Had they actually done so, they would have discovered an outstanding burglary charge on file relating to his November 1995 arrest for this crime.[207]


The Bichard enquiry recommended the implementation of a mandatory registration scheme for people working with children and vulnerable adults such as the elderly and mentally handicapped.[208] This recommendation later led to the foundation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority. The findings also suggested a national system should be implemented for police forces to share intelligence information, and that all police forces should follow a clear code of practice on record-keeping. These findings ultimately led to the tightening of various procedures within the Criminal Records Bureau system, including compulsory checks into potential criminal backgrounds of people who apply to work with children.[209]


An orange-petalled rose, dedicated to the memory of Wells and Chapman, was unveiled by representatives of Soham Town Council at the 2003 Chelsea Flower Show. The inspiration for dedicating a flower to the children's memory sourced from a poem read aloud at the memorial service at Ely Cathedral on 30 August 2002 by the father of Wells, titled Soham's Rose.[210]

On 3 April 2004, the three-bedroomed house in College Close in which the murders occurred was demolished and the site levelled, with all rubble from the property being destroyed and later discarded in various undisclosed locations.[196] The site where 5 College Close once stood is now a vacant patch of grass.[14]

Within days of Huntley's formal sentencing, he reflected to the media on the prospect of his spending the remainder of his life behind bars and of his fears for his security, exclaiming: "I'm going to rot inside this place. I'll rot in here, I know it. I'll spend the rest of my life in here ... I'm going to be inside forever, and it'll be torture."[211]

In the years since his incarceration, Huntley has been repeatedly attacked by other inmates. On 14 September 2005, he was scalded with boiling water while incarcerated at HM Prison Wakefield by a fellow inmate named Mark Hobson. The injuries Huntley received in this attack resulted in his being unable to attend the hearing at which his minimum term of imprisonment was decided.[212] Following this attack, Huntley alleged that prison authorities had failed in their duty of care towards him, and launched a claim for £15,000 in compensation. He was reportedly awarded £2,500 in legal aid to pursue this claim.[213]

Huntley was transferred from Wakefield prison to Frankland prison on 23 January 2008. Three years later, on 21 March 2010, he received non life-threatening injuries to his neck after his throat was slashed by a convicted armed robber named Damien Fowkes. The injuries Huntley received in this attack required hospital treatment.[214] Huntley again applied for compensation for the injuries he received in this attack, seeking £20,000 in damages.[215][216][217]

On 5 September 2006, Huntley attempted to commit suicide by taking an overdose of antidepressants he had accumulated in his prison cell.[218] This suicide attempt resulted in his hospitalisation and a thorough search of his cell, in which a cassette tape was recovered. This cassette tape contains a markedly different account of the murders of Wells and Chapman than that to which Huntley had testified at his trial. In what Huntley had believed would be his posthumous confession, he claims to have confessed to having murdered both girls to Carr prior to their arrest and his plans to confess to authorities, to which, Huntley alleged, Carr had slapped his face and informed him to "pull [himself] together" as she did not wish to lose the teaching position she had yearned for all her life. Huntley further alleges Carr had encouraged him to burn both bodies in an attempt to destroy all forensic evidence linking him to the crime.[219] It is believed Huntley had agreed to make this recording for a fellow prisoner (who had hoped to later sell the confession to the media after his release), in return for his being provided with the antidepressants he had used to attempt suicide.[219][220]

In April 2007, Huntley confessed to having sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl whom he had dragged into an orchard in 1997. This admission—in which Huntley also confessed to having a sexual interest in children while insisting the murders of Wells and Chapman had not been sexually motivated—was welcomed by the victim of this sexual assault.[221] Following Huntley's admission of guilt, this victim issued a press statement in which she confessed to feeling "a massive sense of relief", although she concluded this statement with the sentence: "Yet, I still feel upset that Huntley was left at large, resulting in the deaths of two innocent children."[222]

Carr was released on probation from HM Prison Foston Hall on 14 May 2004 after serving a total of 21 months' imprisonment (including the 16 months she had been detained while on remand).[223] She was given a secret identity to protect her from threats of attack from vengeful members of the public[224] in addition to being provided with a new home in an undisclosed location.[225] Carr is one of four former prisoners in the United Kingdom to be given an entirely new identity upon release.[226] Carr won an injunction on 24 February 2005, granting her lifelong anonymity on the grounds that her life would otherwise be in danger. The costs of imposing this order have been reported by differing tabloid newspapers as being between £1 million and £50 million.[227]

At least a dozen women have been falsely identified as being Carr and either persecuted or physically attacked due to false stories speculating as to her whereabouts and new identity which have been printed in tabloid publications.[228][229][230][231]

Shortly after her release from prison, Carr and her family contacted a Tyneside-based publishing company with view to publishing her autobiography. Although Mirage Publishing initially agreed to publish Carr's autobiography, the company soon withdrew their offer after a feature on BBC Radio Newcastle prompted scores of complaints from the public.[232]



  • Gerrard, Nicci (2004). Soham: A Story of Our Times. Short Books. ISBN 978-1-904-09592-7.
  • Yates, Nathan (2005). Beyond Evil: Inside the Twisted Mind of Ian Huntley. John Blake Publishing. ISBN 1844541428.


  • The Channel 4 documentary Being Maxine Carr focuses on the lasting public outrage at Carr's efforts to pervert the course of justice following the Soham murders, and how numerous women across the UK have been falsely accused of being Carr.[233] This documentary was first broadcast on 14 December 2007.[234]
  • The 90-minute documentary Soham Revisited: 15 Years On was first broadcast on 25 April 2017. Narrated by Alison Steadman, this documentary features interviews with previous lovers of Huntley.[235]
  • The Investigation Discovery channel has broadcast a 60-minute documentary focusing upon the Soham murders as part of their Faking It: Tears of a Crime true crime documentary series. This documentary primarily focuses upon the efforts made by Huntley and Carr to deceive police and public alike, and was first broadcast on 18 August 2017.[236]
  • Channel 5 have also commissioned a documentary focusing upon the Soham murders. This documentary, titled 5 Mistakes That Caught a Killer, was first broadcast on 23 May 2019.[237]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The total population of Soham in 2002 was 8,700[24]
  2. ^ Investigators were able to obtain extensive footage of the children's movements following their departure from the Wells household. The last piece of footage of Wells and Chapman depicts the children walking onto a car park on the grounds of Soham Village College[32]
  3. ^ Huntley was present at one of the press conferences in which the parents of Wells and Chapman pleaded for the safe return of their daughters.[38] On this occasion, he offered his condolences to the father of Wells, stating: "Kevin, I'm so sorry. I didn't realise it was your daughter."[39]
  4. ^ Huntley's precise motivation for voluntarily informing police of his encountering the children outside his home is unknown, although it is speculated he chose to do so out of concerns eyewitnesses may have seen him engaging in conversation with the girls outside his home[48]
  5. ^ Investigators would later determine Wells and Chapman had most likely been attacked—and possibly murdered—in the dining room of College Close[52]
  6. ^ Carr's decision to corroborate Huntley's blatant lies to investigators and media in the early stages of the police investigation briefly resulted in police discounting Huntley as a suspect before eyewitness accounts as to Carr's actual whereabouts on 4 August and a search of mobile phone and telephone records proved the falsity of her claims.[65]
  7. ^ Huntley had attempted to burn these clothes in the late evening of 4 August, although the accelerant he used for this purpose had caused a blaze which he believed may attract attention, causing him to quickly extinguish the fire
  8. ^ Investigators would later discover that one week before his arrest, Huntley had taken his car to an Ely garage to have the vehicle's tyres changed. Using a false identity,[75] he had paid a mechanic £10 to place a false number plate on the receipt for this purchase[73]
  9. ^ Huntley would later inform investigators he had taped bin liners around his feet prior to carrying the children's bodies from his vehicle to the irrigation ditch
  10. ^ At his subsequent trial, Huntley admitted that, in an effort to destroy any forensic evidence, he had returned to the body disposal site several days after the murders to set the bodies alight[92][96]
  11. ^ Huntley would later inform investigators that he had waited for nightfall before opting to drive to RAF Lakenheath to dispose of the girls' bodies. He further elaborated that a deciding factor to dispose of the bodies in this particular location had been that RAF Lakenheath was just two miles from the home of his disabled grandmother, and that if eyewitnesses spotted his vehicle, he could falsely claim his purpose for being in this vicinity had been his decision to visit his grandmother[104]
  12. ^ At this hearing, Carr was informed by Principal Crown Prosecutor Marion Bastin this charge carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Upon hearing this fact, Carr slumped forward.[107]
  13. ^ Investigators believe that prior to his 2002 arrest, Huntley had engaged in illegal sexual activity with up to 60 underage girls[151]
  14. ^ Huntley had never been convicted of any of these criminal allegations, although his burglary charge had remained on file. Howard Gilbert, then-headteacher of Soham Village College—having admitted the college's failure to check Huntley's references prior to offering him employment—later said that he would not have employed Huntley if he had been aware of the burglary charge, as one of Huntley's key responsibilities was to ensure security in the school grounds—a role unfit for a suspected burglar.[174]
  15. ^ Huntley's parents had separated in 1993. Following their separation, Huntley had distanced himself from his father for several years
  16. ^ Several of Carr's former partners would later inform reporters they found her to be an emotionally detached and sexually promiscuous individual who had also been markedly jealous by nature. These had been the reasons several of her early relationships had ended[193]
  17. ^ Huntley's mother's maiden name had been Nixon. Following the separation of his parents in 1993, Huntley chose to use his mother's surname. He would only resume using his father's surname following the 2002 reconciliation of his parents.[181]


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Cited works and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]