Murder Case Sparks British Police Inquiry

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

London ( - The British government has called for inquiries into police and social service procedures after a child murder trial that riveted the nation ended in a guilty verdict.

After Ian Huntley was convicted on Wednesday of murdering two 10-year-olds in August 2002, media reports revealed that he had faced a number of previous allegations of rape and sex with underage girls.

Only one of the cases went to court, but the charges were dropped, and Huntley's only previous conviction was for an unrelated burglary.

Huntley, 29, was given two life sentences, the maximum penalty allowed. An appellate court will determine the minimum amount of time he must serve.

His girlfriend, Maxine Carr, 26, was given 3 1/2 years in prison for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. In order to provide Huntley with a false alibi, Carr lied to police about her whereabouts on the day when Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman went missing.

With 16 months already served, Carr could be released on parole as early as next year.

Background checks failed

Despite the allegations against Huntley, he was given the job of groundskeeper at the school the two girls attended in Soham, eastern England.

A background check failed to uncover his previous brushes with the law, which included four rape allegations in his hometown of Grimsby in the late 90s. Local police were apparently thrown by the fact that Huntley also used the last name Nixon.

Testifying at his trial earlier this month, Huntley admitted the girls died in his house, but contended that they were the victims of a series of accidents. In an 11-1 verdict, the jury rejected this version of events.

Huntley removed their clothing, burned the bodies of the girls and dumped the remains in a field close to U.S. air base near Soham.

After the verdict was announced, Home Secretary David Blunkett announced an inquiry into how Huntley's background information was kept and used by police.

"Real concerns exist about the way in which police intelligence about Huntley's past was handled," Blunkett said in a statement.

Britain has no nationwide police force or equivalent to the U.S. FBI, but the home secretary said that a system put in place last year to check job applicants who work with children would hopefully avoid a repeat of the murders.

Separate probes have been announced into the way local police handled the early stages of the investigation into the murders and into the procedures used by child protection agencies in Huntley's hometown.

Meanwhile, the parents of the girls and the town of Soham welcomed the guilty verdicts.

"I hope that the next time I have to see him (Huntley) will be like we saw our daughters: in a coffin," said Leslie Chapman, Jessica's father.

See Also:
British Police Question Two Over Child Killings (Aug. 19, 2002)

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.