Sixteen years ago, school caretaker Ian Huntley was convicted of murdering 10-year-old Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
The schoolgirls, both ardent Manchester United fans dressed in replica strips, had attended a family BBQ in Soham, Cambridgeshire, but did not return after setting off to buy some sweets.
Two weeks later, their burned remains were discovered at an air base at Mildenhall in Suffolk.
Who is Ian Huntley?
Then 28, Ian Huntley was able to get a job as a secondary school caretaker, despite social services having records of him being accused of having sex with four underage girls – one was just 13 – and an allegation of indecent assault on a 10-year-old. Police investigated three separate claims by women who said Huntley had raped them and he had also been charged with a burglary – though the case was dropped when it came to court.
In spite of all these complaints, Huntley had no convictions, with only the burglary charge being placed on the police national computer on the orders of a judge. After Huntley’s murder conviction, then-Home Secretary David Blunkett ordered an urgent inquiry into how the vetting system failed to stop him working with children.
Now 44, Huntley has reportedly expressed his remorse for the killings in a recorded confession.
The Sun quotes him as saying: “I am genuinely, genuinely sorry and it breaks my heart when it is reported I have no remorse; that I relish something. I do not.
“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 they were turning 18. I know no matter what I say that people are not going to think any better of me. I know that, I don’t expect it to but I would much rather people have the truth about how I feel.”
Where is he now?
Huntley was given two life sentences for the murders of Holly and Jessica. Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Stevenson, speaking outside court in 2003, said Huntley had “refused to speak to police” or accept his guilt.
“As a consequence he forced the families through the ordeal of the trial. Even then he could not bring himself to admit what he had done and concocted the most incredible and implausible explanation of their deaths.”
Huntley is currently in HMP Frankland in Durham. In 2010 prisoner Damien Fowkes, 36, attacked Huntley in the healthcare unit of the prison, leaving him with a gaping wound. Fowkes was later sentenced to life in prison for the attempted murder of Huntley and the manslaughter of paedophile and child-killer Colin Hatch at Full Sutton Prison, near York. Fowkes will serve a minimum of 20 years before he is considered for release.
This week, Huntley claimed a violent prisoner armed with a “razor blade on a toothbrush” tried to kill him in his cell. In a recording obtained by The Sun, Huntley says: “He tried to cut my throat. I managed to kick him in the chest and then the stomach. I took the weapon off him and he was on the floor.”
Who is Maxine Carr?
Maxine Carr was Huntley’s girlfriend and provided a false alibi for him during the investigation into the murders. She served 21 months in prison.
Although not implicated in the murders, the former teaching assistant claimed she had been with him at the time of the killings, which delayed the police investigation. That weekend, Carr had actually been in Grimsby with another man. During the search for the girls, Carr revealed a note from Holly in which the girl said she would miss her after she ceased working at her school.
Carr was convicted of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.
She has since given birth to a child and lives under a new identity. She is one of four former UK prisoners to be given secret identities, along with child killer Mary Bell and James Bulger’s murderers, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.
During the search for the girls, Huntley appeared in several interviews including on Sky News and the BBC, in which he spoke of the community’s shock. He pretended to join the search and offered words of “comfort” to Holly’s father.
Huntley even appeared to weep on camera and claimed to have seen the girls as they walked past his home shortly before they went missing, describing them “as happy as Larry.” He told reporters: “It doesn’t help the fact that I was one of the last people to speak to them, if not the last person to speak to them. I keep re-living that conversation and thinking perhaps something different could have been said, perhaps kept them here a little longer and maybe changed events.”
His lies began to unravel when the final signal from Holly’s phone placed her in Huntley’s home. Forensic evidence linked the spot where the bodies were found to Huntley’s vehicle and a petrol can from Soham Village College, where he worked.
When the girls’ red Manchester United shirts were found burned at the college, Huntley eventually admitted that the girls had died in his house after he had invited them in, but insisted that their deaths were accidental.
But the prosecution laid out an alternative version of events - that Huntley lured Holly and Jessica to his house, possibly with sexual motivation, and murdered them when his plan went wrong.
In court, Huntley said Holly died after falling into his bath, and he killed Jessica by putting his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming.