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Soham murders

The Soham murders was an English murder case in 2002 of two 10-year-old girls in the village of Soham, Cambridgeshire.

The victims were Holly Marie Wells and Jessica Aimee Chapman. On 4 August 2002, after going out to buy some sweets, the girls passed the home of local school caretaker Ian Kevin Huntley, who called them into his house and then murdered them, apparently in a fit of rage after an argument with his girlfriend.

Huntley disposed of the girls' bodies near RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. In December 2003 he was convicted of two counts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. His girlfriend, Maxine Carr, who had provided Huntley with a false alibi, served 21 months in prison for perverting the course of justice.


On Sunday, 4 August 2002, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, both aged 10, had attended a barbecue at the Wells's family home. At around 6:15 pm they went out to buy some sweets. On their way back they walked past the rented house of local school caretaker Ian Huntley, in College Close. Huntley saw the girls and asked them to come into his house. He said that his girlfriend, Maxine Carr, was in the house too, but she had in fact gone to visit family in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. Shortly after the girls entered his house, Huntley murdered them.

Huntley's reasons for killing Wells and Chapman may never be known, but minutes before seeing them he had slammed the telephone down on Carr following a furious argument; Huntley had allegedly suspected Carr of cheating on him. The police suspected that Huntley killed the girls in a fit of jealous rage. Huntley's mother also said this.[1] The police found no evidence of premeditation.[2]


After the girls were reported missing, the police released photographs of them wearing Manchester United replica football shirts and a physical description of each of them, describing them as "white, about 4 ft 6 in tall and slim".[3]

Meanwhile, Huntley appeared in television interviews on Sky News and the BBC's regional news programme Look East, speaking of the shock in the local community.

The girls' bodies were found near the perimeter fence of RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, on 17 August 2002. Twelve hours later, their clothing was discovered in the grounds of Soham Village College and Huntley was arrested. The girls had been missing for 13 days when their bodies were found, with police stating that both corpses were "severely decomposed and partially skeletonised". Huntley had set them alight in a bid to destroy forensic evidence.[4]

The school caretaker was charged with two counts of murder on 20 August 2002[5] and detained at Rampton Secure Hospital, Nottinghamshire, under Section 48 of the Mental Health Act, where his mental state was assessed to determine whether he suffered from mental illness and whether he was fit to stand trial. Consultant psychiatrist Dr. Christopher Clark carried out the assessment and stated:

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.

This left Huntley facing life imprisonment if a jury could be convinced of his guilt.[6] A judge ruled on 8 October 2002 that he was therefore fit to stand trial. Huntley was subsequently moved to Woodhill prison in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, where he attempted suicide on 9 June 2003 by taking 29 antidepressants which he had stashed in his cell. There were fears that Huntley could die as a result of the overdose,[7] but within 48 hours he was back in prison and was later transferred to Belmarsh prison in London.[8]

Ian Huntley

Ian Kevin Huntley was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, on 31 January 1974, the first son of Kevin and Linda Huntley.[9] He spent two months living in the village of Hopton-on-Sea, Norfolk, and also spent time living in Scunthorpe, north Lincolnshire.

In February 1999, Huntley (then aged 25) met 22-year-old Maxine Carr at Hollywood's nightclub in Grimsby town centre.[10] She later moved in with him at his flat in Barton-upon-Humber, a small town on the southern banks of the River Humber. Carr found a job packing fish at the local fish processing factory while Huntley worked as a barman. He also travelled to Cambridgeshire on his days off to help his father who was now working as a school caretaker in the village of Littleport near Ely.

In September 2001 Huntley applied for the position of caretaker at Soham Village College, a secondary school in a small town between Newmarket and Ely. The job had become vacant after the previous caretaker was dismissed for having an inappropriate relationship with a female pupil. Huntley was accepted for the post and began work on 26 November 2001.[11]

Murder trial and subsequent revelations

Huntley's trial opened at the Old Bailey in London on 5 November 2003. He was charged with two counts of murder. The families of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were present for the duration.

Huntley admitted that the girls had died in his house; he claimed that he accidentally knocked Wells into the bath while helping her control a nosebleed, and this caused her to drown. Chapman witnessed this and he claimed that he accidentally suffocated her while attempting to stifle her screaming. By the time he realised what he was doing, it was too late to save either of them. Based on this evidence, he admitted manslaughter.

The jury rejected his claims that the girls had died accidentally and, on 17 December 2003, returned a majority verdict of guilty on both counts of murder. Huntley was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum tariff to be decided by the Lord Chief Justice at a later date.[12]

After Huntley was convicted, it was revealed that he had been investigated in the past for sexual offences and burglary, but had still been allowed to work in a school as none of these investigations had resulted in a conviction.

In August 1995, when Huntley was 21 years old, a joint-investigation was launched by police and social services in Grimsby, after a 15-year-old girl admitted that she had been having sex with Huntley. Police did not pursue the case against Huntley in accordance with the girl's wishes.

In March 1996, Huntley was charged in connection with a burglary at a Grimsby house which took place on 15 November 1995, when he and an accomplice allegedly stole electrical goods, jewellery and cash. The case reached court and was ordered to lie on file. Also in March 1996, Huntley was once again investigated over allegations of having sex with an underage girl, but again he was not charged.

A month later, Huntley was investigated once again over allegations of underage sex, but this allegation too did not result in a charge. The same outcome occurred the following month when he was investigated over allegations of having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

In April 1998, Huntley was arrested on suspicion of raping a woman. He admitted having sex with the woman but claimed it was consensual. The police decided not to charge Huntley.

A month later, Huntley was charged with rape and remanded in custody after an 18-year-old Grimsby woman claimed to have been raped by him on her way home from a nightclub in the town. The charge was dropped a week later after the Crown Prosecution Service examined CCTV images from the nightclub and determined that there was no chance of a conviction.

In July 1998, Huntley was investigated by the police on allegations that he indecently assaulted an 11-year-old girl in September 1997. However, he was never charged. He was investigated over allegations of rape on a 17-year-old woman in February 1999, but no charges were made against him.

The final allegation came in July 1999, when a woman was raped and Huntley – by now regarded by police as a suspected serial sex offender – was interviewed. He supplied a DNA sample and had an alibi provided by Maxine Carr to assert his innocence. The woman subsequently said that Huntley was not the rapist. This was the only case where the victim had not identified or named Huntley as the attacker.[13]

Home Secretary David Blunkett ordered an inquiry into these revelations, chaired by Sir Michael Bichard, and later ordered the suspension of David Westwood, Chief of Humberside Police. The inquiry criticised Humberside Police for deleting information relating to previous allegations against Huntley and criticised Cambridgeshire Constabulary for not following vetting guidelines. An added complication in the vetting procedures was the fact that Huntley had applied for the caretaker's job under the name of Ian Nixon, although he did state on the application form that he was once known as Ian Huntley. It is believed that Humberside Police either did not check under the name Huntley on the police computer — if they had then they would have discovered a burglary charge left on file — or did not check either name.
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