Ian Kevin Huntley was born into a working class home in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, England, on January 31, 1974. He is the first son of Kevin and Linda Huntley. An asthma sufferer, Huntley had a turbulent time at school, as he was often the target of school bullying. The problem continued to escalate until, age 13, he was forced to change schools. He left school in 1990 and declined to continue his studies, despite reasonable grades, choosing instead to go directly into employment.
In the years after he left school, Ian Huntley already seemed to have developed an interest in young girls, and he was seen out with 13-year-old girls when he was 18. In December 1994, Huntley met 18-year-old Claire Evans. The two embarked on a whirlwind romance and married within weeks. The marriage was short-lived, however, and Claire left Ian within days of their wedding, choosing to move in with Huntley’s younger brother, Wayne, instead. An enraged Huntley refused to grant his wife a divorce until 1999, preventing her from wedding his brother.
Following the collapse of his marriage, Huntley became more nomadic, moving from one rented flat to the next, and changing jobs frequently. He had a succession of relationships, one of which was with a 15-year-old girl, with whom he fathered a daughter in 1998. A subsequent enquiry revealed that, between 1995 and 2001, Huntley had sexual contact with eleven underage girls, ranging between 11 and 17 years old.
On January 7, 1998, Huntley appeared in court, charged with robbing a neighbor’s house, and in May 1998, he was charged with the rape of an 18-year-old girl in Grimsby. Neither case proceeded to court due to lack of evidence, but the rape allegation tainted him substantially.
In February 1999 he met 22-year-old Maxine Carr at a nightclub, and they moved in together after 4 weeks. The relationship endured despite some turbulent arguments, and in 2001 they moved to the town of Littleport in, where Huntley took a job at a local center as the manager of a team of caretakers.
In September 2001 he applied for the post of caretaker at a local college, and in November 2001, despite his history of sexual contact with minors, he was awarded the position. Carr was employed as a teaching assistant at the local primary school.
In the early evening of August 2002, two 10-year-old girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, were on their way to buy sweets when they walked past Huntley’s rented house near the college. Huntley saw them and asked them in, claiming that Carr, who was known to the girls through her work at their school, was also at home. Carr, in fact, was away visiting relatives at the time, and within a short time of Holly and Jessica having entered the house, Huntley had murdered both of them.
Huntley used his car to transport their bodies some 20 miles away, where he dumped them in a ditch and set them alight, in a bid to destroy the forensic evidence.
Later that evening, Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells were reported missing and a police search began at around midnight. Over the next two weeks the search escalated to become one of the most widespread and publicized in British history.
Several witnesses came forward, including Huntley, who claimed to have seen the girls shortly before they disappeared, and his home was searched routinely in order to eliminate him as a suspect. Huntley also granted television interviews to the press, and his unusual interest, together with his emotional involvement, made investigators suspicious, leading to a wider search which revealed the half-burned remains of Holly and Jessica’s shirts, in a storage building at Soham College where Huntley was employed.
Following the find, police arrested Huntley, and girlfriend Carr, on suspicion of murder. Later the same day, August 17, 2002, 13 days after the girls had disappeared, a game warden discovered the girls’ bodies near RAF Lakenheath, an airbase in Suffolk, near to Huntley’s father’s home.
Subsequent autopsy reports on the girls listed their probable cause of death as asphyxiation, but their bodies were too badly decomposed to establish whether they had suffered any sexual assault.
Trial and Aftermath
Despite Huntley’s attempts to destroy forensic evidence, extensive hair and fiber residue remained which linked Huntley to the girls. Huntley was formally charged with the girl’s murders, and sectioned under the Mental Health Act at Rampton Hospital, pending a hearing to establish if he was fit for trial. Carr was arrested for assisting an offender, as well as conspiring to obstruct the course of justice, as she had initially provided Huntley with a false alibi for the time of their disappearance.
The trials of Huntley and Carr opened, to worldwide media interest, in London, on November 5, 2003. Huntley was faced with two murder charges, while Carr was charged with perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender.
The prosecution entered exhaustive evidence linking Huntley to the girls and, three weeks into the trial, despite previously having denied any knowledge of their murders, Huntley suddenly changed his story, admitting that the girls had died in his house, but he claimed that both deaths were accidental. The defense called Huntley as their first witness, and he described how he had accidentally knocked Holly Wells into the bath, while helping her control a nosebleed, and had accidentally suffocated Chapman when she started to scream, and he had tried to silence her. On cross-examination the prosecution described his latest version as “rubbish.”
Carr’s testimony began three days later, when it was claimed that she had no control over the events on the day of the murder, and that, had she known of Huntley’s murderous intent, she would never have lied to protect him.
Following her testimony, the prosecution presented their closing statements, claiming that both Carr and Huntley were convincing liars, and also that Huntley’s motive for murdering the girls was sexual, although physical evidence of assault was impossible to prove.
After five days of deliberation, the jury rejected Huntley’s claims that the girls had died accidentally and, on December 17, 2003, returned a majority verdict of guilty on both charges. Huntley was sentenced to life imprisonment, but there was a delay on the setting of his sentence, as the 2003 Criminal Justice Act came into force one day after his conviction.
At a hearing on September 29, 2005, a judge ruled that the Soham killings did not meet the criteria for a “whole-life” sentence, which was now reserved for sexual, sadistic or abduction cases only under the new act, and imposed a 40 year prison sentence, which offers Huntley very little hope for release. On September 14, 2005, Huntley had been attacked by another inmate at Belmarsh Prison, and scalded with boiling water, which prevented him from attending this sentencing hearing.
Carr was cleared of assisting an offender, but found guilty of perverting the course of justice, and jailed for three and a half years, but she was freed under police protection in May 2004, as she had already spent 16 months on remand, pending the trial.
Carr was given a new identity on her release and, on February 24, 2005, was granted an indefinite order protecting her new identity by the High Court, on the basis that her life would be in danger were her new identity to be revealed.
A number of invesigations, launched by then Home Secretary David Blunkett, investigated the failures of both the police, and other social and vetting agencies, in stopping Huntley sooner, and system wide communication and intelligence-sharing errors were identified, which led to the suspension and early retirement of the chief of Humberside Police.
Since being jailed, Huntley has reportedly admitted to his father that he lied when giving evidence at his trial, alleging that he killed Jessica Chapman to prevent her from calling for help on her mobile phone, rather than suffocating her accidentally, as he claimed in court.
On July 23, 2004 Carr’s mother, Shirley Capp, was sentenced to six months in jail for intimidating a witness during the trial. Capp’s neighbor, Marion Westerman, had told police that she had seen a crying Carr, and Huntley, looking in the boot of a car outside Carr’s mother’s house, shortly after 10-year-old Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had gone missing. Carr’s mother’s threats to Westerman had nearly resulted in her retracting her statement at the time, and not testifying in court.
On September 5, 2006, Ian Huntley was rushed to the hospital after being found unconscious in his prison cell. He was taken to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield to receive treatment for a suspected drug overdose and was returned to prison the next day.
Following this incident the Home Office released a statement to the media.
“Huntley continues to be managed according to Prison Service policy on the prevention of suicide and self-harm. In particular he will be subject to Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) procedures through which his risk will be continually assessed. The Prison Service works to minimize the risk of any prisoner taking their own life, but it cannot eliminate that risk entirely.”
Huntley had been considered a suicide risk after he took 29 anti-depressant pills, which he had hidden away in a box of teabags, in June 2003.