The Soham murders

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

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 with a minimum term of 40 years. His girlfriend, Maxine Ann Carr, who had provided Huntley with a false alibi, served 21 months in prison for perverting the course of justice.

The Murders

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. The police found no evidence of premeditation


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”.

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.

The school caretaker was charged with two counts of murder on 20 August 2002 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. 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 anti depressants which he had stashed in his cell. There were fears that Huntley could die as a result of the overdose,but within 48 hours he was back in prison and was later transferred to Belmarsh prison in London

Ian Huntley

Ian Kevin Huntley was born into a working class home in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, on 31 January 1974, the first son of Kevin and Linda Huntley. An asthma sufferer, he had a turbulent time at school, often being the target of school bullying, and this problem escalated until, aged 13, he was forced to change schools. He left school in 1990 and declined to continue his studies to A-level, despite reasonable GCSE grades, choosing instead to go directly into employment.

In the years after he left school, Huntley already seemed to have developed an interest in young girls, and he was seen out with 13-year-old girls when he was eighteen. In December 1994, Huntley met 18-year-old Claire Evans, embarked on a whirlwind romance, and married her within weeks. The marriage was short-lived, however, and she left Huntley within days, choosing to move in with Huntley’s younger brother Wayne instead. An enraged Huntley refused to grant his wife a divorce until 1999, preventing his brother’s marriage to Evans.

Following the collapse of his marriage, Huntley became more nomadic, moving from one rented flat to the next, and changing jobs frequently. He had a succession of relationships, one of which was with a 15-year-old girl, with whom he fathered a daughter in 1998. A subsequent inquiry revealed that, between 1995 and 2001, Huntley had sexual contacts with eleven underage girls, ranging between 11 and 17 years old.

On 7 January 1998 he appeared at Grimsby Crown Court charged with having burgled a neighbour’s house, and in May 1998, he was charged with the rape of an 18-year-old girl in Grimsby. Neither case proceeded to court due to lack of evidence, but the rape allegation tainted him substantially.

In February 1999 he met 22-year-old Maxine Carr at a nightclub, and they moved in together after 4 weeks. The relationship endured despite some turbulent rows, and they moved to Littleport, near Soham, in 2001, where Huntley took a job at the Soham Village Centre as the manager of a team of caretakers.

In September 2001 he applied for the post of caretaker at Soham Village College, and in November 2001, despite his history of sexual contact with minors, he was awarded the position. Carr was employed as a teaching assistant at the local primary school.

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 tolife imprisonment, with a minimum term to be decided by the Lord Chief Justice at a later date.

Past offences for Huntley

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 suspected by local police as a 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.

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.”

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

Maxine Carr

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.

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 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. 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.

November 2011 – Maxine Carr has become a mother – but her baby can never know her real name or how she protected Soham murderer Ian Huntley. Carr, 34, gave birth to her first child earlier this year at the safe house where she is living under a secret identity



The Wells and Chapman families received £11,000 in compensation for the death of their daughters. This was a statutory payment administered by a Non-departmental Public Body the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. The compensation tarifs are set by the UK Parliament and administered by the Civil Service. The compensation was widely criticised in the media; the director of the Victims of Crime Trust, Clive Elliott, described it as a “pittance”.

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

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. 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. 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. On 28 March 2007, The Sun began publishing transcripts of Huntley’s taped confession.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. Fowkes received a second life sentence for the two attacks.

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”.

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.

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. 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.