"What cannot be said will be wept."
It was the 4th of August 2002. 10 year old Jessica Chapman called over to see her friend Holly Wells. Jessica had just returned from a family holiday and wanted to catch up with her friend and give her a gift that she bought for her. Holly and Jessica both lived close to each other in the Cambridgeshire town of Soham in the United Kingdom and were the best of friends. They were born just one month apart from each other.
Holly was having a great weekend.The day before, a Saturday, she went shopping with her mother and her friend Natalie. Holly's mother bought Holly some new flare trousers and her first bra on the shopping trip. It was a really special occasion. Natalie stayed the night at Holly's house and she was still there on the Sunday morning when Jessica called over. The three girls played on the computer for a while and Natalie went home around noon. Jessica was having so much fun that she called home to ask her parents, Leslie and Sharon, if she could stay for lunch. The two girls had some egg mayonnaise sandwiches and continued playing. Jessica called again later that day to ask if she could stay at Holly's house for dinner. Sharon told her it was fine and to let her know when she was ready to come home so that Jessica's father, Leslie, could collect her.
Jessica and Holly
Holly's parents, Kevin and Nicola, were having a barbecue that day and had invited some friends over so they were more than happy to have Jessica for dinner too.Their friends arrived around 3.15pm and the men began preparing the food. Holly was wearing the new clothes she got the day before but she changed her top so she could wear her Manchester United football shirt with the name of the footballer Beckham on the back to match Jessica. At 5.04pm, Nicola took a photo of them wearing their matching football shirts. Nobody knew it then but that photo would soon be seen by millions of people around the world.
Jessica and Holly
After they finished eating, the two girls went up to Holly's bedroom and a little over an hour later, around 6.15pm, they decided to go to the shop to buy some sweets. They didn't tell anyone they were going out. In all likelihood this was probably because the shop was so close and they only planned to be outside for a few minutes.
At 8.20 pm that night, people were leaving the barbecue and heading home so Nicola called up to the girls to ask them to come down to say goodbye. When there was no answer she went up to Holly's bedroom but they weren't there. At that stage, Nicola wasn't overly concerned as their curfew was 8.30pm and they were such good and reliable girls and so well behaved and responsible that she thought they would be home soon. When they hadn't returned by 8.45pm, Nicola began to panic. She contacted Sharon to see if the girls were there but they weren't so Kevin headed out with a couple of his friends to search the Soham area. They contacted police at 9.56pm and a large number of people joined the search. It was to become one of the largest searches in the UK.
Jessica and Holly
Police established where the girls went through eye witness accounts and CCTV. CCTV footage showed the girls going to the sweet shop in the Sports Centre at the Soham Village College. They looked happy as they skipped into the shop. Witnesses also saw them arm in arm and chatting. They stood out due to their matching football shirts and one witness even referred to them as the "two Beckhams".
CCTV Footage of Jessica and Holly
At the Soham Village College, another witness said that he saw the girls as they stopped to talk to him at his cottage. That witness was Ian Huntley. Ian, originally from Grimsby in Lincolnshire, had lived in Soham for around a year and was the school caretaker and the girls stopped to ask him how Maxine Carr was. Maxine was Ian's girlfriend and she had also worked as a teaching assistant at the girl's school. Ian said that he was outside at the time cleaning his dog Sadie. The girls then walked off in the direction of the library but nobody knew what happened after that or where they went.
Police had an open mind when the search for Holly and Jessica began. They looked at different possibilities such as that they stayed out too late or ran away or were in an accident. The girls didn't take anything with them though and it would have been so out of character for them to just stay out or run away. As the days went on and there was no sign of the girls, police feared they may have been abducted.
Everyone really pulled together to search for the girls and the media played a crucial role in the coverage of their disappearance. So much so, that interviews conducted by Jeremy Thompson of Sky News, led to him being a witness at the later Trial in this case. Jeremy wanted to retrace the steps the girls took and it made sense that Ian Huntley said they walked towards the library as that would have been the natural route for them to take. It didn't make sense though that after that, they seemed to disappear. He interviewed Ian as it was believed quite early on that Ian would have either been the last or one of the last people to see Holly and Jessica. Ian described their conversation as being brief and again showed the direction that the girls took. At the time, nothing really stood out about that interview. It was the later interview that Jeremy conducted with Ian's girlfriend Maxine that revealed something a little troubling. Maxine had already told police she was with Ian the night the girls went missing. When he was talking to the girls, Maxine was in the bath. She talked about the girls in the interview but the troubling aspect of it was when she mentioned Holly in the past tense, "she was a lovely girl." The team at Sky News found that worrying and notified police.
Police had also grown suspicious of Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr. It transpired that the alibi Maxine provided for Ian was a lie. She was not at home having a bath, she was in Grimsby, 100 miles away, at her mother's house the night the girls went missing. She had called him several times that day. Phone records proved this. Ian had been home alone. So police wanted to know why Maxine had lied and why Ian needed an alibi. Police looked into Ian's background. They received calls and tip offs from people from Grimsby who knew Ian and saw him giving interviews on the television. They knew Ian because they believed he was involved in sexual assaults against women in Grimsby.
While he had no previous convictions, rumours and accusations followed him when he left Grimsby. He was known to date girls who were younger than he was and when he was 22 years old, he lived with his 15 year old girlfriend. There were accusations of sexual assault and rape made by different girls and at one point, he was charged with rape but the charges were subsequently dropped. His past also revealed his controlling side and he would not allow Maxine to have any visitors at the house. So police took both Ian and Maxine in for questioning on the 16th of August to try to establish if they knew anything about the disappearance. They were released seven hours later as at that stage police didn't have anything that would require them to be charged. However, just one day later, police got a break in the case.
Kevin and Nicola Wells, Sharon and Leslie Chapman
On the 17th of August 2002, police made a devastating discovery. They found the two little football shirts that the girls had been wearing the day they went missing in a bin at the school along with shoes and underwear. They had been partially burnt which lead police to believe that Holly and Jessica were dead. They believed they were looking for their bodies.
The bin that the clothes were found in
Sadly, their fears were realised. The bodies of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells were found later that day. Their burnt and badly decomposed bodies had been found in a ditch in Lakenheath.
Lakenheath airbase was in Suffolk and was a half an hour drive from Soham.
Ian and Maxine's house was searched. It had been meticulously cleaned and no blood was found in their home. Everything was washed from the bedsheets to even the curtains. Some things were out of place. There was a crack in the bath. In the dining room, a light had been torn down. It was left hanging by a cord. Something had happened in the house but police could not determine what that was. Nothing of evidential value was initially found. No blood. No hairs. The only fingerprints found were Holly's fingerprints that were on a box of chocolates that she had given to Maxine at the end of the school year.
Police knew that Ian was familiar with Lakenheath. He liked to go there for plane-spotting. They examined his car and discovered the day after Holly and Jessica went missing, he changed the tyres on his red Ford Fiesta.
Ian and Maxine's house
The forensic pathologist could not say for certain how the girls died but it was believed they had been strangled or suffocated. The bodies of Holly and Jessica were so decomposed that it was impossible to say whether they had been sexually assaulted or not.
Ian and Maxine were charged with murder and perverting the course of justice.
Maxine said that she gave Ian an alibi because she believed he was not involved.
At the Trial, it was the Prosecution's case that Ian was home alone that night and watched as the girls walked by the house. They did not believe he was outside cleaning his dog. In fact, they thought he had just been on a call with Maxine and was in a fit of rage that she was in Grimsby again. He somehow lured the girls into the house. Police had traced Jessica's mobile phone and believed the girls were inside his house at 6.34 pm that night. Jessica's phone was tuned off 12 minutes later and police believed the girls were already dead by then. This was key to the investigation. Her phone had been turned off at 6.46 pm and instead of the signal being picked up at the Soham mast, it was picked up at the Burwell mast. This area was outside Ian's house.
Ian admitted that the girls were in his house. He said that he had been cleaning his dog outside when the girls came over to ask about Maxine. Holly had a nosebleed so he brought them inside the house to get some tissues. He claimed that some blood fell on the bedsheets from Holly's nose and he took her to the bathroom. While in the bathroom, Holly fell into the bath which had 6-8 inches of water inside the tub (he had earlier claimed there were 18 inches but changed his story when it was highlighted that it was not possible) . Holly had died as a result and Jessica began to scream. To stop her screaming he put his hand over her mouth and she also died. He admitted that he dumped their bodies in the ditch.
The Prosecution believed that Ian was lying. They believed that he murdered Holly and Jessica in his house and put their bodies in the boot of his car and dumped their bodies in the ditch. They further believe he then returned on the 7th of August with a can of petrol , lit a match and threw it in the ditch. It was their belief that he did this as he did not want any evidence found that his motive had been a sexual one. He wanted this concealed. Due to the decomposition, the Prosecution could not prove the sexual assault element of the case so they had to make sure they could prove murder.
Ian in his car
It was clear, by Ian's own admission, that the girls had been in his house that evening and the only other person in the house was Ian. It was also clear, by evidence found on Ian's car and again by his own admission that he had dumped their bodies. So the issue that the Jury had to determine was who was telling the truth. Had the girls died accidentally and unintentionally in Ian's house? Or had Ian murdered them?
His version was that Holly fell into the bath and died. This was examined at Trial and seemed highly unlikely. It was put to Ian that the only way Holly could have died in the bath that way was if he held her head under the water. His account of how Jessica died was also quite far fetched. If he simply put one hand over her mouth , she would have used her hands to try to move his hand or turn her head. It was more likely that he was restraining her and holding her hands which prevented her from doing this.
Even though Ian had been quite careful in the aftermath of the girl’s murder, some mistakes were made. Ian's fingerprint was found on the liner inside the bin that the girl's clothes were found inside and his hair was found on the clothes, fibres from the schoolgirls' shirts were discovered inside his home and on one of his boots. Chalk was found on the suspension arm on the car’s front wheel and that chalk matched the chalk that was on the track near the ditch where the girls' bodies were discovered.
The Jury deliberated for some 4 days in this case and Ian was found guilty by a majority verdict. Ian was convicted of the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Maxine was convicted of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Ian was sentenced to two life sentences , to serve a minimum of 40 years in prison and Maxine was sentenced to three and a half years. She has now been released and has a new identity.
The comments below have not been moderated
Join Our Community
Check out our new Book Club!