Carr explains her lies to police by saying: I didn't want Huntley to be 'fitted up' again

Schoolgirls' classroom assistant tells court her former boyfriend had a breakdown over rape allegation
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The Independent Online

It was love at first sight for Maxine Carr when she met Ian Huntley in a Grimsby nightclub, the Old Bailey murder trial was told yesterday.

On a day when the court learnt that the former caretaker had been accused of rape five years earlier, the jury listened to how the temporary teaching assistant of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman tried to explain away the "spiral" of lies she had told police before she was arrested.

In police interviews peppered with personal detail, she insisted she had merely been trying to "protect" her partner from being "fitted up" again.

Having initially rejected an offer of a lawyer because she hadn't "got anything to hide really", Ms Carr capitulated and admitted she had not been in Soham, Cambridgeshire, when the 10-year-olds disappeared on 4 August 2002.

She had not been in the bath upstairs when the girls called round and spoke to Mr Huntley. She had, in fact, been out drinking in Grimsby with her mother, unaware of the disappearance.

In an attempt to explain her lies, she told police that Mr Huntley had been accused of rape in 1998 and not acquitted until a videotape of him in a nightclub at the significant time had been discovered. It had led to a breakdown, she said.

The mother of his child, whom he has never seen, then rejected him, the court was told. "It does bother him, because he wants to see his daughter. He's not done anything yet people are still hanging it round his neck, like a flipping tombstone thing round his neck all the time. He's got to carry that through his life," she told the detectives.

Apologising for wasting police time, she said: "He said, 'I'm gonna get fitted up again like I did before cause it took the police four months to come up with the videotape'. I couldn't see him going through that again cause I know he hadn't done anything like that and I didn't want him to go through that again being interrogated and having it thrown at him."

Joined by her solicitor for later interviews, she said it had been her idea, not Mr Huntley's, to lie, when a female police officer came round to the house they shared next to Soham Village College and took her into another room for interview. "I just gulped and then he said to me when I come out I said I told them that I was here. All the details he told me I told them. The only thing I said that I was in the bath ­ and he sort of went into, 'Well you told the police now what are you gonna do next time they ask you a question and the next time they ask you a question?' and it just, just spiralled," she explained in an interview in which she spoke affectionately of the two girls.

She said that when it looked as if they were about to be arrested, Mr Huntley had told her to come clean, to tell the truth.

The court was told that Mr Huntley had remained silent when he was arrested at his father's Littleport home in the early hours of 17 August 2003, but his partner's reaction was very different.

Two female and one male detective arrived at the Holiday Inn room Ms Carr had been placed in by police, announcing they were there to arrest her in connection with the murders of Holly and Jessica. The girls' terribly decomposed bodies were found later that day in an isolated ditch near Lakenheath air base, Suffolk.

Det Con Paul Noble said: "Maxine sat on the bed in her room, silent for a period of time. She made only one comment. 'You just said I was charged with murder'.

"Maxine Carr said 'They are not dead though. How do you know if they are dead?'" added the officer in a statement.

Mr Huntley was in tears when he telephoned Ms Carr about the missing schoolgirls, according to statements she made to police after her arrest.

The jury was told that she told officers on 17 August last year ­ 13 days after the girls vanished ­ that Mr Huntley rang her on Monday 5 August, while she was in Grimsby, "and he told me that he'd been out all night searching with these policemen". In the statement, Ms Carr tells officers Mr Huntley was in "absolute tears because he was the last person to have spoke to them. The last person to have seen them that's what everyone was saying and he said I'm gonna get fitted up again like I did before."

Mr Huntley, 29, denies the double murder though he concedes the girls died in his house and he hid them in the isolated ditch near Lakenheath air base. Ms Carr, 26, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of assisting an offender and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.