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The Soham Murderer: Ian Huntley

Crime Files
Ian Huntley - Crime Profil
Image: Left: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo | Right: Crime + Investigation

Ian Kevin Huntley was born into a working class home in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, on 31st January 1974, the first son of Kevin and Linda Huntley. An asthma sufferer, he had a turbulent time at school, often the target of school bullying, and this problem escalated until, aged 13, he was forced to change schools. He left school in 1990 and decided not 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 18. 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, moving in with Huntley’s younger brother Wayne. 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, frequently changing jobs. 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 7th 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 four weeks. The relationship endured despite some turbulent rows, and they moved to Littleport, near Soham, in 2001. There 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.

Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman
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. 


31st January 1974: Ian Huntley is born in Grimsby.

4th August 2002: Huntley murders 10-year-old Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in Soham.

17th August 2002: Huntley and Carr are arrested.

5th November 2003: Huntley and Carr's trial begins.

17th December 2003: Huntley is found guilty of murder by a majority verdict.

The Aftermath

A number of inquiries, launched by then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, investigated the failures of both the police and other social and vetting agencies, in stopping Huntley sooner. System wide communication and intelligence-sharing errors were identified, which led to the suspension, and early retirement, of the chief of Humberside Police. Since being jailed, Huntley has reportedly admitted to his father that he lied when giving evidence at his trial, alleging that he killed Jessica Chapman to prevent her from calling for help on her mobile phone, rather than suffocating her accidentally, as he claimed in court.

On 23rd July 2004, Carr’s mother, Shirley Capp, was sentenced to six months in jail for intimidating a witness during the trial. Capp’s neighbour, Marion Westerman, had told police that she had seen a crying Carr, and Huntley, looking in the boot of a car outside Carr’s mother’s house, shortly after 10-year-old Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had gone missing. Carr’s mother’s threats to Westerman had nearly resulted in her retracting her statement at the time, and not testifying in court.

On 5th September 2006, Ian Huntley was rushed to hospital after being found unconscious in his prison cell. He was taken to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield to receive treatment for a suspected drug overdose and was returned to prison the next day. Following this incident, the Home Office released a statement to the media: "Huntley continues to be managed according to Prison Service policy on the prevention of suicide and self-harm. In particular he will be subject to Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) procedures through which his risk will be continually assessed. The Prison Service works to minimise the risk of any prisoner taking their own life, but it cannot eliminate that risk entirely."

Huntley had been considered a suicide risk after he took 29 anti-depressant pills, which he had hidden away in a box of teabags, in June 2003.

The Trial

The trials of Huntley and Carr opened to worldwide media interest at the Old Bailey on 5th November 2003. Huntley was faced with two murder charges, while Carr was charged with perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender. The prosecution entered exhaustive evidence linking Huntley to the girls and three weeks into the trial, despite previously having denied any knowledge of their murders, Huntley suddenly changed his story, admitting that the girls had died in his house, but he claimed that both deaths were accidental.

The defence called Huntley as their first witness, and he described how he had accidentally knocked Holly Wells into the bath, whilst helping her control a nosebleed, and had accidentally suffocated Chapman when she started to scream, and he had tried to silence her. On cross-examination the prosecution described the latest version of his story as “rubbish”.

Carr's testimony began three days later, when it was claimed that she had no control over the events on the day of the murder, and that had she known of Huntley’s murderous intent, she would never have lied to protect him. Following her testimony, the prosecution presented their closing statements, claiming that both Carr and Huntley were convincing liars, and also that Huntley’s motive for murdering the girls was sexual, although physical evidence of assault was impossible to prove.

After five days of deliberation, the jury rejected Huntley’s claims that the girls had died accidentally and on 17th December 2003, returned a majority verdict of guilty on both charges. Huntley was sentenced to life imprisonment, but there was a delay on the setting of his tariff, as the 2003 Criminal Justice Act came into force one day after his conviction.

This new act passed the decision on how long a prisoner given a life sentence would serve from the Home Secretary to judges. At a hearing on 29th September 2005, a judge ruled that the Soham killings did not meet the criteria for a whole-life tariff, which was now reserved for sexual, sadistic or abduction cases only under the new act, and imposed a 40 year prison sentence, which offers Huntley very little hope for release.

On 14th September 2005, Huntley had been attacked by another inmate at Belmarsh Prison, and scalded with boiling water, which prevented him from attending this sentencing hearing. Carr was cleared of assisting an offender, but found guilty of perverting the course of justice, and jailed for three-and-a-half years, but she was freed under police protection in May 2004, as she had already spent 16 months on remand, pending the trial. Carr was given a new identity upon her release and on 24th February 2005, was granted an indefinite order protecting her new identity by the High Court, on the basis that her life would be in danger were her new identity to be revealed.

The Arrest

Following the discovery of Holly and Jessica's charred clothing, police arrested Huntley and girlfriend Carr on suspicion of murder. Later the same day, 17th August 2002, 13 days after the girls had disappeared, a game warden discovered the girls’ bodies near RAF Lakenheath, an airbase in Suffolk, near to Huntley’s father’s home. 

Subsequent autopsy reports on the girls listed their probable cause of death as asphyxiation, but their bodies were too badly decomposed to establish whether they had suffered any sexual assault. Despite Huntley’s attempts to destroy forensic evidence, extensive hair and fibre residue remained which linked Huntley to the girls.

Huntley was formally charged with the girl’s murders, and sectioned under the Mental Health Act at Rampton Hospital, pending a hearing to establish if he was fit for trial. Carr was arrested for assisting an offender, as well as conspiring to obstruct the course of justice, as she had initially provided Huntley with a false alibi for the time of their disappearance.

The Crimes

In the early evening of 4th August 2002, two 10-year-old girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, were on their way to buy sweets, after leaving a family barbecue when they walked past Huntley's rented house in College Close. Huntley saw them and asked them in, claiming that Carr, who was known to the girls through her work at their school, was also at home. Carr, in fact, was away visiting relatives at the time, and within a short time of Holly and Jessica having entered the house, Huntley had murdered them both.Huntley used his car to transport their bodies some 20 miles away, where he dumped them in a ditch and set them alight, in a bid to destroy the forensic evidence.

Later that evening, Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells were reported missing and a police search began at around midnight. Over the next two weeks the search escalated to become one of the most widespread and publicised in British history.

Several witnesses came forward, including Huntley, who claimed to have seen the girls shortly before they disappeared, and his home was searched routinely in order to eliminate him as a suspect. Huntley also granted television interviews to the press, and his unusual interest, together with his emotional involvement, made investigators suspicious, leading to a wider search which revealed the half-burned remains of Holly and Jessica’s shirts, in a storage building at Soham College where Huntley was employed.