Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells: 18 years on from the Soham murders
School caretaker Ian Huntley is currently serving a prison sentence for the young girls’ murder.by CATRIONA HARVEY-JENNER AUG 5, 2019GETTY IMAGES
On 4th August 2002, 10-year-old school friends Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were enjoying a barbecue at Jessica’s family home in Soham, Cambridgeshire. The pair were dressed in matching Manchester United football shirts – their favourite team – as they left the house to buy some sweets that afternoon, but they never returned home.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWhttps://d6aa3643154dc96df2adb47f05197302.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Now, 18 years on from their murders, former school caretaker Ian Huntley is serving two terms of life imprisonment. He is currently 15 years into a minimum sentence of 40 years.
At the time of Holly and Jessica’s disappearance, Ian Huntley was working as a caretaker at the local secondary school, Soham Village College. He was engaged to and living with Maxine Carr, a teaching assistant at Holly and Jessica’s school, which was his connection to the youngsters.
Despite working in a school, Huntley had been known to have engaged in relationships with underage girls. The mother of the murderer’s only child, Katie Bryan, was just 15 when she first met Ian Huntley. He was several years older than her, but they quickly developed a sexual relationship which later became abusive. “Once it was clear I liked him and we’d had sex, he began to treat me like a child, to bully me,” Katie recalled in a documentary.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWhttps://d6aa3643154dc96df2adb47f05197302.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Maxine Carr was away on the weekend in August when Holly and Jessica went missing. The girls had left the house shortly after the infamous picture – the one which would become the face of the missing persons campaign (seen above) – was taken. It was thought they just wanted to explore in “an area with which they were entirely familiar,” said Richard Latham, the prosecuting lawyer in Ian Huntley’s trial.
At around 8.30pm, Holly’s parents went to check on girls and found that they had “simply vanished”. Panic soon ensued and a search party was called as the family and friends of both girls scoured the local village for any sign of the youngsters’ whereabouts.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWhttps://d6aa3643154dc96df2adb47f05197302.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
THE LIES AND THE TRUTH
Among that search party, sickeningly, was Ian Huntley. Seemingly keen to help officers hunting for Holly and Jessica, Huntley volunteered that he may have been the last person to speak to the girls after they apparently walked past his house at approximately 6.15pm, asking after Maxine Carr as he was outside washing his car.This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.https://www.youtube.com/embed/7e9NX60dXJ4?v=7e9NX60dXJ4&start=0&enablejsapi=1&origin=https://www.cosmopolitan.com
“It doesn’t help the fact that I was one of the last people to speak to them,” Ian Huntley said in a TV interview before he was a suspect in the case. “I keep re-living that conversation and thinking perhaps something different could have been said, perhaps I could have kept them here a little bit longer and maybe changed events.”ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWhttps://d6aa3643154dc96df2adb47f05197302.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
That wasn’t what happened, however.
In reality, Huntley invited the girls into his house, telling them Maxine was inside. Once inside, he ended up murdering Holly, before killing Jessica too as she tried to phone her mum for help. At his initial trial in the Old Bailey in 2003, Huntley said he smothered Jessica by mistake as he tried to stop her crying after Holly died, but the story soon changed.
“If she hadn’t kept shouting she’d have got out of the house alive,” the Daily Mail reports he said, “I was telling her to stop shouting so I could think. She kept saying, ‘You pushed her. You pushed her’. It was only when I put my hand on her shoulder as she went for the door that I realised I couldn’t let her leave the house.”
Detectives estimate the girls may have been dead by 6.46pm, because this was the time Jessica’s mobile phone was switched off. Huntley claims police failed to notice the phone on his draining board when they did initial door-to-door enquiries following the pair’s disappearance, so he later disposed of it in a bin at the Tesco supermarket in Ely, Cambridgeshire, having cleaned it of fingerprints. The phone was never found.
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Huntley claims he phoned his partner Maxine that evening, who had been away visiting relatives during the time of the murder, to tell her what he’d done. Upon informing her he intended to confess, the killer insists his fiancé urged him not to tell the truth because she was worried she would lose her job as a teaching assistant. It is not known if this is true, however Maxine Carr was later jailed for attempting to pervert the course of justice because of the lies she told to cover for Huntley.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
IAN HUNTLEY’S CRIMES UNRAVEL
Holly and Jessica’s bodies were not discovered for a further two weeks, on August 17 2002, in what was an agonising time for their families. Walkers found the remains next to a dirt track near to Thetford Forest, approximately 40 miles from Soham. They had been burned and dumped beside one another.
Just hours before the discovery of the bodies, however, Ian and Maxine’s lies began to unravel, raising suspicion over them amongst the police. The couple were arrested following “items of major interest” being found by police in Soham Village College, where Huntley worked. Those items of interest turned out to be the remains of Holly and Jessica’s burnt Manchester United tops.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
During his trial, Huntley insisted Holly had suffered a nosebleed. He claimed he’d been trying to help her attend to it when he ‘accidentally knocked her into his bath’ where she apparently drowned.
A pathologist studying these claims, Dr Nathaniel Cary, rejected this story, however, calling it “wholly implausible”. Holly Wells’ brother Oliver also reportedly “conducted secret experiments in the bathroom at home to prove it was impossible”, according to the Daily Mail.
The jury saw through Huntley’s lies, too, and took less than 18 hours to return with a guilty verdict. Only one person on the 12-strong jury believed the caretaker was innocent. It had been claimed during the trial by prosecutors that the motive for the murders was actually a sexual one, something which certainly links to his past, and is also supported by the fact Huntley washed his bedsheets after the murders had taken place.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
WHERE IS IAN HUNTLEY NOW?
Ian Huntley was sentenced to two life sentences, which means he will serve a minimum of 40 years in prison. The murderer is currently imprisoned at high-security HMP Frankland in Durham, alongside other notorious criminals including The Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, hate preacher Anjem Choudary, and Milly Dowler murderer Levi Bellfield.
Tapes leaked in February 2018 revealed Ian Huntley speaking out about the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman for the first time. Obtained by The Sun, the recordings – which were made at his prison – depict Huntley admitting his wrongdoing. “What I will say is that I am so terribly, terribly sorry for what I have done… I am sorry for what I have done, sorry for the pain I have caused to the families and friends of Holly and Jessica, for the pain I have caused my family and friends, and for the pain I have caused the community of Soham,” he reportedly says.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
The recordings continue, with the murderer appearing to reflect on where Holly and Jessica might be now if he hadn’t cruelly taken their lives. “I can’t change anything. I cannot remove that day from history, what I have done. I know those girls would be 26 this year with families of their own, jobs and lives. I thought about them when they were turning 21 and when they were turning 18.”
Huntley also clarifies that he never expects to be released from prison, and that he will never apply for parole out of “consideration” for Holly and Jessica’s families.
“I accepted a long time ago my life was in jail… I will never ever apply to leave prison. Never ever apply for parole. I will die in prison. I accept that. I don’t believe I should be free. Not because I believe I am a danger but because two young girls are dead and I do not deserve to be released.”ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
Undeniably, the recordings will come as no comfort to the families and friends of the young girls he murdered almost sixteen years ago.
WHAT HAPPENED TO MAXINE CARR?
Maxine Carr pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice for lying about Ian Huntley’s alibi. She was also charged with two counts of assisting an offender, which she pleaded not guilty to. The jury found that Carr had been unaware of her partner’s crimes, and so she was sentenced to three-and-a-half-years in jail for the perverting the course charge. However, she only served half that time; Carr was released on probation in May 2004, and was given a new identity.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
In February 2005, Maxine Carr she won an injunction enabling lifelong anonymity, after she argued that her life would be in danger if the public discovered her new identity. The Sun reported in October 2011 that Carr had given birth to a baby boy, however the anonymity order extends to him, so he will never be named publicly, and may never become aware of who his mother previously was.
For the families of Holly and Jessica, their agony is eternal. Sharon and Les Chapman, Jessica’s parents, have rarely spoken publicly about the ordeal they have suffered, but a year after the introduction of the Police National Database – which was created to close gaps in information-sharing between police forces – they released a statement saying: “We hope [the database’s] use will mean other families don’t suffer the same loss and heartbreak as we did.”
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In 2012, on the 10-year anniversary of the girls’ disappearance, Holly’s parents Kevin and Nicola Wells spoke about their daughter. “She was a star, our daughter,” said Kevin.
Despite the “excruciating” pain of their joint experience, which is known to drive couples apart, Kevin and Nicola have remained together.
“Losing Holly was excruciating, but I have yet to see anything to persuade me that the mother’s loss, Nicola’s, is not the greater,” said Kevin. “They say 95 per cent of the parents of murdered children split up. We were determined to be among the five per cent who survive but for a year, perhaps 18 months, I couldn’t reach my wife.”
Kevin explains the couple began to process their grief “at different speeds”, but ultimately they found the strength to come back together.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
“Eventually, hard work and routine turned us around. Nicola found her joie de vivre and the woman I fell in love with returned to me. Slowly but surely we came back together as a couple, thank goodness,” he said.
Describing what life has been like in the wake of Holly’s murder, Kevin Wells poignantly said: “Time doesn’t heal, someone got that wrong. It anaesthetises.
“Grief does not diminish, but you can manage the intensity and learn to live with it. Murder has the capacity to destroy more lives than the one taken. I recognised that from the start, so I tried to take control, to make plans and to exert positive thought.”CATRIONA HARVEY-JENNER features editorCat is Cosmopolitan UK’s features editor covering women’s issues, health and current affairs.This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.ioADVERTISEMENT
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