Soham murders

Soham murders
Jessica Aimee Chapman
Holly Marie Wells

Holly Wells (l) and Jessica Chapman (r)
Born 1 September 1991(1991-09-01) (Chapman)
4 October 1991(1991-10-04) (Wells)
Soham, Cambridgeshire, England
Died Both c. 4 August 2002(2002-08-04) (aged 10)
5 College Close, Soham, Cambridgeshire, England
Body discovered Lakenheath, Suffolk, England
Parents Leslie and Sharon Chapman
Kevin and Nicola Wells

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

Ian Huntley
Born 31 January 1974 (1974-01-31) (age 37)
Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England
Alias(es) Ian Nixon
Conviction(s) Murder
Penalty Life imprisonment (40-year minimum tariff)
Status Convicted
Occupation School caretaker

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.


Huntley was sentenced to life imprisonment and on 29 September 2005 his minimum term was decided. On this date, the High Court announced that Huntley must remain in prison until he has served at least 40 years; a minimum term which will not allow him to be released until at least 2042, by which time he will be 68 years old. In setting this minimum term, Mr. Justice Moses stated: "The order I make offers little or no hope of the defendant's eventual release."[14]

Huntley was among the last of more than 500 life sentence prisoners waiting to have minimum terms set by the Lord Chief Justice after the Home Secretary's tariff-setting procedures were declared illegal. Anyone who committed a murder after 18 December 2003 would have a minimum term set by the trial judge.[15]

Maxine Carr

Maxine Ann Carr
Born 16 February 1977 (1977-02-16) (age 34)
Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England
Conviction(s) Perverting the course of justice
Penalty 42 months imprisonment
Status Released
Occupation Teaching assistant

Maxine Carr initially provided a false alibi to police for Huntley, claiming to have been with him at the time of the murders when she was in Grimsby. She was charged with perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender. She pleaded guilty to the first charge and not guilty to the second.

Her failure to expose Huntley's lies in the early stages of the investigation (before either of them was arrested) meant that police initially eliminated Huntley as a suspect. But, due to her false statement, it took the police nearly two weeks to arrest and charge him.[16]

The court accepted that Carr had only lied to the police to protect Huntley because she believed his claims of innocence and so found her not guilty of assisting an offender. She was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison[12] and was released on probation on 14 May 2004 after serving 21 months (including 16 months on remand). She was given a new secret identity to protect her from threats of attack from members of the public that had been made during her remand, as well as during and after the trial.[17] After release, Carr and her family were negotiating towards an autobiographical book deal, but Gateshead based publishers, Mirage Publishing, withdrew after receiving scores of objections after a feature on BBC Radio Newcastle.[18]


The Wells and Chapman families received £11,000 in compensation for the death of their daughters. The compensation was widely criticised in the media; the director of the Victims of Crime Trust, Clive Elliott, described it as a "pittance".[19]

Following the announcement of Huntley's conviction, it emerged that various authorities were aware of allegations, from a number of sources, that he had committed one act of indecent assault, four acts of underage sex and three rapes.

The only one of these allegations that resulted in a charge was a rape, for which he had been remanded in custody but released when the Crown Prosecution Service determined that there was not enough evidence for a conviction. Huntley had also been charged with burgling a neighbour in Grimsby but he was not convicted, although the charge remained on file.

On the day of Huntley's conviction, the Home Secretary David Blunkett announced an inquiry into the vetting system which allowed Huntley to get a caretaker's job at a school despite four separate complaints about him reaching social services. One of the pertinent issues surfaced almost immediately when Humberside Police (where all the alleged offences had taken place) stated that they believed that it was unlawful under the Data Protection Act to hold data regarding allegations which did not lead to a conviction; this was contradicted by other police forces who thought this too strict an interpretation of the Act.

There was also considerable concern about the police investigation into the girls' murders. It took nearly two weeks before the police became aware of previous sexual allegations against Huntley, and despite him being the last person to see either of the two children, his story was not effectively checked out early during the investigation.

Huntley had not been convicted of any of the underage sex, indecent assault or rape allegations, but his burglary charge had remained on file. Howard Gilbert, then headteacher of Soham Village College, later said that he would not have employed Huntley as a caretaker if he had been aware of the burglary charge, as one of Huntley's key responsibilities in his role was to ensure security in the school grounds. The Soham murders led to a tightening of procedures in the Criminal Records Bureau system which checks the criminal background of people who work with children, following criticism that the system had weaknesses and loopholes.[20][21]

Huntley in prison

On 14 September 2005 Huntley was scalded with boiling water when another inmate, Mark Hobson (serving life for a 2004 quadruple murder in Yorkshire), attacked him.[22] A prison service spokesman said that due to the nature of high-security prisoners, "it's impossible to prevent incidents of this nature occasionally happening", but Huntley alleged that the prison authorities failed in their duty of care towards him, and launched a claim for £15,000 compensation. Huntley was reportedly awarded £2,500 in legal aid to pursue this claim, a move strongly criticised by the Soham MP James Paice, who insisted on tight restrictions on the use of public money for compensation, and said, "The people I represent have no sympathy for him at all". Huntley's injuries meant that he did not attend the hearing at which his minimum term was decided.

On 5 September 2006, Huntley was found unconscious in his prison cell, thought to have taken an overdose. He had previously taken an overdose of antidepressants in prison in June 2003 while awaiting his trial.[23] He was under police guard in hospital for two days, before being returned to Wakefield prison, prompting much reaction from many present at the scene as well as making the front pages of many of the UK newspapers the next morning. Following this attempted suicide his cell was cleared and a tape was found which was marked with Queen on one side and Meat Loaf on the other. This tape is thought to contain confessions from Huntley on what he did and how he did it. It is believed that Huntley made the tape in return for antidepressants from a fellow prisoner, who hoped to obtain and later sell the confession to the media upon his release.[24] On 28 March 2007, The Sun began publishing transcripts of Huntley's taped confession.[25]

In April 2007, Huntley confessed to have sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl after dragging her into an orchard in 1997. His victim won the right to damages against Huntley. Huntley was believed to be insolvent so unlikely to pay any damages, but she claimed to feel "a massive sense of relief" at his confession.[26] This followed repeated denials by Huntley that there had been a sexual element in the Soham murders, which the sentencing judge described as likely but not proven, and which if proven would have led to Huntley receiving a whole life prison term.[27]

On 23 January 2008, Ian Huntley was moved to Frankland prison near Durham.

On 21 March 2010, Huntley was taken to hospital, with media reports stating that his throat had been slashed by another inmate; his injuries were not said to be life-threatening.[28] The prisoner who wounded Huntley was later named as fellow life sentence prisoner and convicted armed robber Damien Fowkes. Huntley applied for a £20,000 compensation payout for his injuries.[29] On 11 June 2011, the Daily Mirror reported that Fowkes may not be tried over the attack on Huntley amid concerns about his mental health.[30] However, in October 2011, Fowkes pleaded guilty at Hull Crown Court to the attempted murder of Huntley, as well as the manslaughter of Colin Hatch, a repeat child sex offender then imprisoned for murdering a seven year old boy, at Full Sutton prison in February 2011.[31] Fowkes received a second life sentence for the two attacks.[32]

Carr after release

Maxine Carr was released from prison on 14 May 2004 and immediately received police protection. She won an injunction on 24 February 2005, granting her lifelong anonymity on the grounds that her life would otherwise be in danger from lynch mobs. The costs of this have been reported by different tabloid newspapers as being between £1 million and £50 million, costs that would possibly have been unnecessary were it not for what former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade described as tabloid newspapers "whipping up the kind of public hysteria guaranteed to incite misguided people to take the law into their own hands".[33]

Some tabloids have taken to writing inaccurate articles designed to smear her, possibly because of her unusual legal position. She has been variously accused of receiving thousands of pounds worth of dental treatment at the taxpayers' expense, applying for a childcare course, negotiating a £1 million book deal with a publisher and making a series of sensational demands in order to live abroad. All these stories were untrue, but Maxine Carr was unable to make any formal response to them without jeopardising her anonymity.[34]

At least a dozen women have been attacked and persecuted as a result of lynch mobs "enraged by fake stories about Carr published by red-top papers", as Greenslade said.[34][35][36][37][38] Channel 4 released a documentary describing this as a modern witchhunt against unknown women of similar appearance to Carr who have recently moved into an area.[39]

Bichard inquiry

An inquiry was announced on 18 December 2003, and Sir Michael Bichard was appointed as the chairman. The stated purpose 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.

The inquiry opened on 13 January 2004. The findings of the Bichard inquiry were published in June that year.[40] The Humberside and Cambridgeshire police forces were heavily criticised for their failings in maintaining intelligence records on Huntley.

The inquiry also recommended a registration scheme for people working with children and vulnerable adults such as the elderly. The development of this recommendation led to the foundation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority. It also suggested a national system should be set up for police forces to share intelligence information. The report said there should also be a clear code of practice on record-keeping by all police forces.

Police Reform Act 2002

Bichard's report severely criticised the Chief Constable of Humberside Police, David Westwood, for ordering the destruction of criminal records of child abusers. Though supported by the Humberside Police Authority, he was suspended by then Home Secretary David Blunkett using powers granted under the Police Reform Act 2002 to order suspension as "necessary for the maintenance of public confidence in the force in question". The suspension was later lifted, with Westwood agreeing to retire a year early in March 2005.

The Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Tom Lloyd, was also criticised as his force had failed to contact Humberside Police during the vetting procedure. Lloyd was censured by the police inspectorate for being slow to cut short a holiday after the investigation had become the largest in the force's history. The inspectorate also criticised a "lack of grip" on the investigation, which included nationally televised appeals by footballer David Beckham, and Detective Superintendent David Beck who announced that he had left a message for abductors on Jessica's mobile phone before the case was taken from him.

Another complication was that two Cambridgeshire police officers involved with the families of the murdered girls had become Operation Ore suspects a month before the murders. Antony Goodridge, one of the exhibits officers, later pleaded guilty to child pornography offences and was given a six-month sentence. Detective Constable Brian Stevens, who had spoken at the memorial service, was cleared of all charges of indecent assault and child pornography offences when no evidence was offered by the prosecution.

See also


  1. ^ "Huntley 'flipped and killed'". Daily Mail (London). 
  2. ^ Harris, Paul. "Huntley asked about 'sexual motive'". Daily Mail (London). 
  3. ^ "'Extreme concern' for missing girls". BBC News. 5 August 2002. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  4. ^ "Huntley set fire to girls' bodies". BBC News. 28 November 2003. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  5. ^ Judd, Terri (21 August 2002). "In a secure mental unit, Huntley is charged on two counts of murder". The Independent (London). 
  6. ^ "Huntley declared fit for trial". RTÉ News. 2002-10-08. Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  7. ^ "Soham suspect comfortable". Daily Mail (London). 
  8. ^ From the archive (2003-06-11). "Ian Huntley back in prison after taking drug overdose". Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  9. ^ "Trail of underage sex and violence that led to murders". (London: Telegraph Media Group Limited). 18 December 2003. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  10. ^ Judd, Terri (18 December 2003). "Maxine Carr: The teenage anorexic who loved working with children and nights on the town". The Independent (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  11. ^ Morris, Steven (6 November 2003). "Ownership of red Fiesta is key issue in Soham trial". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  12. ^ a b "Huntley guilty of Soham murders". BBC News. 17 December 2003. 
  13. ^ "Previous allegations against Huntley". BBC News. 17 December 2003. 
  14. ^ Paragraph 16, [2005] EWHC 2083 (QB)[dead link] – Her Majesty's Courts Service
  15. ^ Ian Huntley should never go free says Falconer[dead link] Sunday Telegraph, 18 March 2007, Retrieved 4 February 2008
  16. ^ Gould, Peter (17 December 2003). "Carr prolonged Soham's agony". BBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  17. ^ "Carr released from prison". BBC News. 14 May 2004. 
  18. ^ "Publisher scraps Carr book deal". BBC News. 5 March 2005. 
  19. ^ "£11,000 Soham pay-outs condemned". BBC News. 1 February 2004. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  20. ^ "The CRB explained – How the criminal records bureau operates". The Guardian. 17 December 2003. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  21. ^ "Concerns about teachers' List 99". BBC News. 14 January 2006. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  22. ^ "Huntley scalded in prison attack". BBC News. 15 September 2005. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  23. ^ "Soham killer treated for overdose". BBC News. 5 September 2006. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  24. ^ "Exclusive Huntley Print Cards For Sale'". Sunday Mirror. Retrieved 4 February 2007. 
  25. ^ "Huntley: I lied for lover Maxine". The Sun. 28 March 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  26. ^ "Huntley admits sex attack on girl in 1997". Daily Telegraph. 25 April 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  27. ^ "Judge outlines reasons for sentence". Daily Telegraph. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  28. ^ "Soham murderer Ian Huntley attacked by jail inmate". BBC News. 21 March 2010. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  29. ^ "Soham killer Ian Huntley set to get £20k payout for having throat slashed in prison". The Daily Record. 23 March 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  30. ^ Byrne, Paul (11 June 2011). "Ian Huntley's alleged slasher may not face trial". Mirror. 
  31. ^ "Ian Huntley: Prisoner admits attacking Soham killer". BBC News. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  32. ^ "Ian Huntley attacker Damien Fowkes gets life term". BBC News. 5 October 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  33. ^ Greenslade, Roy (28 February 2005). "Selling lies is not press freedom". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  34. ^ a b Greenslade, Roy (16 May 2005). "PCC must act over hounding of Maxine Carr". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  35. ^ "Carr look-alike claim 'nightmare'". BBC News. 24 August 2006. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  36. ^ Harris, Gillian (25 August 2004). "Mob torments Scots woman mistaken for Maxine Carr". The Times (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  37. ^ "Carr look-alike goes into hiding". BBC News. 2 April 2005. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  38. ^ Maxine's lookalike job storm Sunday Mirror, 8 August 2004
  39. ^ "Being Maxine Carr". Channel 4. 14 December 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  40. ^ The Bichard Report, Home Office website retrieved 21 February 2009

Further reading

  • Wells, Kevin (2005). Goodbye, Dearest Holly. Psychology News Press Ltd. ISBN 978-0907633020. 

External links

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