Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Soham Murders Trial

The Disappearance of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman

Holly Wells (left) & Jessica Chapman
Holly Wells (left) & Jessica Chapman

On August 4, 2002, best friends Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, both ten, posed for a picture sporting their new red Manchester United football shirts before sitting down to dinner with family and friends. It was a festive occasion and the Wells family was having a barbecue. Shortly after dinner, Holly and Jessica stepped out of the house and went to a nearby sports center to buy some candy. They were never seen alive again.

Later that evening, Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells were reported missing and a police search began at around midnight. The girls' parents were frantic, not knowing what could have become of them. Jessica had a mobile phone with her when the girls left, yet the family and investigators were unable to contact her.

Ian Huntley
Ian Huntley

The search, involving the police and hundreds of volunteers lasted well into the next day and the following weeks. Pictures of the girls were circulated throughout the community in the hopes that someone had seen them. Jessica and Holly's parents held a news conference pleading for any information concerning the whereabouts of their children. Even the British Manchester United soccer star, David Beckham, whose name adorned the girls' shirts, made a televised appeal for their safe return. As time passed, the hopes of finding the girls alive dwindled. 

Several witnesses who claimed to have seen the girls after they left their home came forth during the investigation. Ian Huntley, 29, a caretaker of Soham Village College, who had assisted in the search, told investigators that he had seen the girls walking by his house that he shared with his girlfriend, Maxine Carr, 29, the girls' primary school teacher assistant at around the time they left the barbecue. He was believed to have been one of the last persons to see Jessica and Holly after they had left their home.

Discarded jerseys in garbage bin
Discarded jerseys in garbage bin

After he admitted to seeing the girls, investigators searched Huntley's home and the college where he worked, hoping to eliminate him as a suspect. During the searches they found no evidence linking him to the crime but some investigators were still suspicious of his behavior. Throughout the investigation, Huntley seemed too emotionally involved in the case. Moreover, he was asking too many questions and gave the impression that he knew more than what he was admitting. One week later, investigators decided to search the college premises again. This time they made a significant find.

In a storage building at Soham Village College, an officer found a garbage bin with the half burned remains of Jessica and Holly's Manchester United jerseys along with their shoes. It was one of the first big breaks in the investigation. Following the find, police arrested Huntley and his girlfriend Maxine Carr on suspicion of murder. Their suspicions would be confirmed later that same day.

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