LBC Views: Twenty years on from Soham - this can never happen again

4 August 2022, 12:06

LBC's Steven Rigley was in Soham, this is his view twenty years later
LBC's Steven Rigley was in Soham, this is his view twenty years later. Picture: LBC

By Stephen Rigley

The hallowed walls of Court 1 of the Old Bailey have witnessed many of Britain's most notorious trials.

From Lord Haw Haw to The Yorkshire Ripper and Dr Crippen to The Krays, this is where many of Britain's greatest crimes are resolved.

Every day the tension and drama is palpable but veteran court watchers say few moments can ever compare to the Soham murders trial of Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr when the former classroom assistant took to the witness box.

It was December 3, 2003 and no one who was in court that day could ever forget Carr raising her right hand and pointing across the packed courtroom to where Huntley stood in the dock, accused of murdering 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

"The children died, he killed those children.

"I don't need to put my position in a better light. I know exactly what I have done, sir.

"I have come in this witness box to say what I have done and I'm not going to be blamed for what that thing in that box has done to me or those children."

The sensational trial was the culmination of a shocking crime that horrified a nation and left an indelible mark on all those involved.

Even now, 20 years after Holly and Jessica were first reported missing, few who spent any time in Soham during those dreadful days will ever forget their names.

In 2002 I was a reporter for a major national newspaper who was sent to Soham to help the team reporting on the story.

By the time I arrived in the town, the girls had been missing for a few days and I recall the thick, muggy summer air as I drove through miles of farmland to meet my colleagues at the temporary base we had set up in the center of Soham.

As you recall Soham was a pleasant market town and as the miles of farmland turned into houses and homes, every wall or lamppost appeared to have been plastered with the famous, heart-wrenching picture of the two children in their identical Manchester United shirts.

While hundreds of people were coming together to join the search parties heading out in every possible direction hoping that the girls would be found alive.

Police and journalists came together at various points in the town eager to share snippets of information. Only one topic of conversation was on anyone's lips.

"Have you heard anything?" "Any news."

We all prayed for a miracle. Sadly it was not forthcoming.

Only later did I recall the unassuming cottage where Huntley and Carr lived and the revulsion when it emerged that the children were killed inside.

Now Huntley is serving a life sentence for the murder of the girls, whose bodies were finally found after a two-week hunt while Carr was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in 2003 after being found guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice for giving him a false alibi.

I haven't been back to Soham since that summer. I can only hope and pray that the families of Holly and Jessica and the people of the town received the help, support, and care they needed when the eyes of the world had moved on.

And proper, effective communication between police forces is finally working. The police failings that led a dangerous sex offender to be employed around children can never happen again.

That would be a fitting legacy for Holly and Jessica.