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What happened to Maxine Carr?

A title graphic reading 'Maxine Carr - 'The most hated woman in Britain''. The artwork features a map of Soham and a photograph of a river in Soham.

On 4th August 2002, two 10-year-old girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, were murdered by Ian Huntley as they walked down the street to buy some sweets. Maxine Carr, Huntley’s girlfriend, provided the killer with a false alibi, slowing down the police investigation and perverting the course of justice.

Eventually, Huntley was caught and Carr was subsequently given jail time for her actions. Such was the public outcry at the time that when Carr eventually left prison, she was given a new identity for her own safety.

Now, twenty years after the Soham Murders, we take a look back at the crime that shocked the nation and discover what happened to Maxine Carr.

Holly and Jessica disappear

The Wells family was hosting a barbeque for friends in their house situated in the town of Soham, Cambridgeshire on Sunday, 4th August 2002. Over at the Wells’ household was Holly’s friend Jessica. The girls were photographed smiling ear-to-ear as they sported matching Manchester United football shirts.

Just after their tea, Holly and Jessica set out down the street to buy some sweets. Their parents thought the girls were playing upstairs in Holly's bedroom, but reported them missing as soon as they discovered they were gone. By the following morning, one of the biggest manhunts in British history was underway.

Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in their Manchester United football kits
Image Credit: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo | Above: Holly Wells (left) and her best friend, Jessica Chapman (right), who disappeared from Soham, Cambridgeshire in August 2002.

The investigation

During the next two weeks, the search escalated with over 400 officers deployed while nationwide media coverage aired press conferences and public appeals. Every registered sex offender in Cambridgeshire and neighbouring Lincolnshire was questioned by police, as well as over 250 more offenders from across the UK.

Various witnesses came forward claiming to have seen the girls shortly before they disappeared. One witness was Ian Huntley.

Ian Huntley becomes the prime suspect

28-year-old Huntley worked as a caretaker for Soham Village College and in the days after the girls disappeared he was keen to speak with journalists. His unusual interest began to raise eyebrows as he recanted stories of seeing the girls and hypothesised over how they might have acted if they'd been approached by a stranger.

‘To think I was the last friendly face that those girls have spoken to before something happened to them,’ Huntley brazenly told the press.

The police became suspicious of Huntley’s behaviour and he soon found himself a person of significant interest. Digging into his past, it was quickly revealed he had a history of sexual assault and violence against underage girls.

Maxine Carr enters the fray

Huntley’s 25-year-old girlfriend Maxine Carr worked as a teaching assistant at the local primary school that both Holly and Jessica attended. Carr and Huntley had met at a Grimsby nightclub in early 1999 and within weeks the pair had moved in together.

Like Huntley, Carr was keen to speak with the press and even showed them a card Holly had made her on the last day of term.

However, it was during that same interview that Carr made a chilling mistake declaring, ‘That was the kind of girl she was, she was just really lovely.’ Referring to Holly in the past tense immediately raised suspicions because at the time the girls were still just ‘missing’.

The alibi

The behaviour of Huntley and Carr led police to interview them as significant witnesses on 16th August. Carr provided Huntley with a false alibi for the time of Holly and Jessica’s disappearance. She stated that he had been with her at their house, when in fact she was staying with her mother in Grimsby.

The alibi quickly fell apart when police analysed phone records that placed Carr 100 miles away from Soham on the night of the murders.

Whilst Huntley and Carr were being interviewed, police searched the couple’s home and discovered a set of keys to a storage building at Huntley’s school. He’d previously denied having access to this location.

It was in that storage building that the police found the burnt clothes of Holly and Jessica, with Huntley’s fingerprints all over the plastic liner in which they’d been placed.

Huntley and Carr are arrested

On 17th August, Huntley and Carr were arrested on suspicion of murder. That same day, a gamekeeper discovered the bodies of the two young girls, lying side-by-side in an irrigation ditch near RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

The bodies had been badly burnt and were severely decomposed, making it difficult for the pathologist to identify the exact cause of death. The probable cause was eventually declared as asphyxiation, but it was impossible to establish whether the girls had suffered any sexual assault.

Forensic evidence recovered from the scene placed Huntley there and he was formally charged with their murder. Carr was charged with assisting an offender, as well as conspiring to obstruct the course of justice.

The public turn on Carr

Overnight, Carr become the most hated woman in Britain. The strength of public hatred towards her grew in the coming weeks as she was dubbed ‘Myra Hindley mark two’.

Huntley and Carr imprisoned

On 5th November 2003, Huntley and Carr went to trial. Huntley admitted the girls had died in his house but claimed that it was all just a ‘terrible accident’.

The jury rejected his claims and he was found guilty. Huntley was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Carr was cleared of assisting an offender but found guilty of perverting the course of justice. She was jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Carr’s new identity

After serving a total of 21 months in prison (including 16 months detained on remand pre-trial), Carr was released on probation on 14th May 2004. Due to the threat of attack from members of the public, Carr was granted a new identity. She is just one of a handful of criminals to have been given a secret identity after release from prison.

In 2005, she was granted lifelong anonymity since her life would be in danger should her real identity be revealed. Rumours of plastic surgery, endless relocating, a wedding and even children abound, but Carr’s alias and location remain unknown and protected to this day.