Carr makes an anonymous return to a society unwilling to forgive her for Huntley's crimes

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The Independent Online

Will she ever be able to walk down the street without looking over her shoulder? From today, Maxine Carr is officially a free woman, having served half of a 42-month sentence for providing the Soham murderer, Ian Huntley, with a false alibi.

But far from enjoying a fresh start the 27-year-old is about to begin a life in hiding. As one of Britain's most recognisable and vilified former inmates she is likely to be at constant risk of attack.

The fear that she will be immediately identified by the press on her release prompted Carr's lawyers to go to the High Court yesterday to obtain a wide-ranging gagging order on revealing details of their client. The injunction bans the publication of Carr's new name, her address, and any photograph, drawing or film that would identify her. It also prevents reporters questioning people about Carr's name and address, or obtaining information about her care, and details of a psychiatric report being compiled on her.

To prevent her being recognised and intimidated by her new neighbours, the police, Home Office, and probation officers, have made comprehensive plans for her future safety. These carefully considered measures were, however, compromised on the eve of her release when vital documents about her were stolen from the car of a senior civil servant while she celebrated a friend's birthday at a pub. Although the papers were found hours later dumped on Hampstead Heath in north London, it is unclear whether the thief made copies.

While the documents did not reveal Carr's new name, they are thought to have included details that could be used to identify the safe house where she was to live.

The continued fascination with Carr, her link to Huntley, and the murder of the Soham schoolgirls, Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, means she is unlikely to be able to show her face in public for years. But some believe, that far from being billed as a "killer's moll" and "evil", that the young woman should be considered vulnerable.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has made it clear that while Carr is a very unusual case he does not wish, or believe it necessary, for the authorities to spend huge sums of money on her protection.

Mr Blunkett believe that Carr can be properly supervised and protected using existing arrangements. Thompson and Venables, who have been successfully released back into a community that once shunned them, are still the subject of strict court orders that grant them anonymity. After Wednesday's security lapse the police are expected to delay moving Carr to her new home. She will probably be kept in a safe house until the police are sure details of the council property have not leaked.

Considered a likely target by vigilantes, Carr has been placed on the public protection list of about 2,500 former prisoners who are considered dangerous or at risk of attack on release. A team of protection officers and police have drawn up a series of measures to disguise her identity and minimise the danger of attack. These include advice on changing her hairstyle and colour, make-up, and clothing, so that she is not so easily recognised in public.

Her future home will be fitted with a panic button linked directly to the local police station and will be extremely secure to deter intruders. At first she is expected to be accompanied by a plain-clothes police officer during any trips outside her council property. It is unclear whether she will be granted her wish to live with her mother.

As well as the automatic £45 that all prisoners receive on their release she will get social security benefits. Because of her reputation she is considered virtually unemployable.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, yesterday questioned the demonisation of Carr.

He said: "It's essential to remember that Maxine Carr is extremely vulnerable and has had problems with anorexia and mental health. She has been extremely depressed and is highly vulnerable. She is recovering from a dependant relationship with a man who manipulated her.

"What she did was lie for him. That was wrong and caused deep distress to the families of the victims, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. But she did not know she was covering up for an evil murderer, nor did she play any role in the girls' horrendous deaths."

In addition to serving the licence period of her jail term, Carr will be under the supervision of probation officers after a new sentence on Monday. The former teaching assistant was ordered to complete a three-year community rehabilitation order after admitting benefit fraud and lying in employment applications.

Martin Narey, head of the National Offender Management Service, said officials had considered the possibility that Carr's new identity and address could be made public. "I would be very disappointed if that happened, because it wouldn't do anybody any good and wouldn't do Maxine Carr any good."