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