Ten years on from the day Ian Huntley murdered Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, what have we learned from the lessons of Soham
R.I.P Holly and Jessica
On August 4, 2002, 10-year-old friends Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman went missing after a family barbecue.
They’d be both be twenty now. Two young girls, with their best years ahead of them, whether their futures lay in the village they grew up in, or took them far away from the wide open Fens.
We all know what happened instead. Ten years ago, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman went out to buy some sweets on a sunny afternoon and they never came home.
Ian Huntley, now almost 40, is serving two life sentences for their murders. So are the families the girls left behind, as the awful events of August 4, 2002 and their aftermath unfolded.
Maxine Carr, Huntley’s former partner, was cleared of any involvement in the killings.
She was jailed for three and a half years afer being found guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
Carr now lives in a safe house, under a new identity and is reportedly married with a child.
Last night members of Holly Wells’s family told their story in an ITV documentary focussing on how they have remained together as a family, united by grief and a determination to keep going and not allow themselves to be destroyed by Huntley.
Holly’s father Kevin Wells said: “The intensity of grief in 2002 through the early stages was absolutely debilitating but of course Holly doesn’t go away and our thoughts and the memories of Holly don’t go away, the effects of that grieving process don’t go away.
“We had a 12-year-old son Oliver who we wanted to provide a really strong future for, so our thoughts were with him right from the very early days.”
Mr Wells said his strongest memory of the time was how Soham pulled together after the girls went missing, as villagers joined the search for them.
“When the girls went missing we had enormous numbers of police teams here, enormous numbers of media but in amongst that were enormous numbers of local people who just took the time off work or changed their leisure time and wanted to be proactive and do something to help in the search for two girls,” he said.
“And that’s a great feeling, when you’re the father of one of those girls, to see so many people – it was an amazing coming together.”
One day, the police turned up unexpectedly instead of calling first. The family steeled themselves for the worst news of all.
“They turned up at our door and we immediately knew that we were about to hear the worst possible news so that is what happened,” said Mr Wells. “We then obviously had family round and shared that news with them and it was disastrous, absolutely disastrous.”
Perhaps it was the enduring last photograph of the girls, smiling together in their Manchester United shirts. Perhaps it was the CCTV footage of them happily strolling through the village arm in arm.
Every parent in the land held their breath and hoped when they saw Holly and Jessica’s faceson the TV or in the papers. We all prayed they’d be found.
Holly’s mother Nicola Wells said she, her husband and their 12-year-old son Oliver dealt with their loss by trying to carry on, living “normal” lives.
“I went straight back to work didn’t I, not on a full time basis but just to try and get some normality,” she said.
“Oliver went straight back to school and I thought that was important at the time, just to try and keep everything in a normal way of life really.”
This year Mr Wells ran the London Marathon with a friend, raising £14,000 for a charity called Grief Encounter, which helps families struggling to cope with bereavement.
After the trial concluded, the caretaker’s bungalow where the girls were killed was demolished. To this day, only Ian Huntley truly knows what went on inside 5, College Close.
Perhaps it’s enough that we know that Holly and Jessica were dumped in a ditch and their bodies set alight when he’d finished with them.
As Huntley’s dark past emerged, there were questions over how previous sexual allegations against him in Humberside had not been revealed when he applied for a job at a school in Cambridgeshire.
Some nine allegations of rape, indecent assault and sex with underage girls while Huntley was living in Grimsby were not passed on.
Nor was a burglary conviction, which would have been enough on its own to have prevented him from getting the caretaker’s job at Soham Village College.
The Bichard Inquiry studied the way police forces shared information. It made 31 recommendations – the lessons of Soham – on how techonology should be used more effectively to stop dangerous people slipping through the net. New databases were set up.
Through their suffering and their loss, Holly and Jessica may ultimately have prevented another Soham – but at what a terrible cost to themselves, their families and the little community that rallied round to try and find them.
Holly’s brother Oliver, now 22, said: “I wish I could see her somehow what she’d look like now, she had very blonde hair.
“It will always be a little bit strange going round just the three of us and everyone knows there used to be a fourth.”
Holly and Jessica
Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were best friends.
They both lived in the village of Soham in Cambridgeshire, where they went to St Andrew’s Primary School.
They went missing on Sunday 4 August 2002, when they were both 10 years old.
The girls were big David Beckham fans and were wearing matching red Manchester United tops with his name on when they disappeared. David Beckham even made a public appeal for the girls to come home.
Both the girls were friendly and popular, and Holly particularly loved music, and Jessica loved to swim.
There was a huge hunt for them all around Soham, led by the police and helped by hundreds of their friends and neighbours. Sadly, their bodies were found two weeks later on 17 August 2002.