Carr turns on 'abusive and controlling' Huntley

Her voice shaking, Maxine Carr turned to Ian Huntley yesterday and called him "that thing in the box".

She may have been smitten when she met Mr Huntley in a Grimsby nightclub and she may have written daily to him from her prison cell even after he was accused of murdering Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

But yesterday, almost a year after she severed all direct contact with her former fiancé, there was loathing in her face as she pointed towards the dock of the Old Bailey's court number one.

"I have come into the witness box to say what I have done and I am not going to be blamed for what that thing in that box has done to me or those children," the 10-year-olds' former temporary teaching assistant said.

The 26-year-old cut a confident figure yesterday as she returned to the witness box to face cross-examination. Her answers were self-assured. At times she turned to smile at Mr Justice Moses when he chided her for interrupting.

She maintained that she had always believed the two small girls had walked away from her house that night, chatting to each other.

It was only when Mr Huntley, 29, gave evidence at the beginning of this week, she said, that she heard him describe for the first time how Holly had accidentally drowned in their bath after being invited in to treat a nosebleed. And how a screaming Jessica had been smothered to death as a direct result of his actions.

But as Mr Huntley's barrister Stephen Coward QC accused her of embellishing on evidence she initially gave police, she snapped and turned her fury on his client, referring to him as an object rather than a human being.

Upon their arrest on the 17 August 2003, 13 days after the schoolfriends' disappearance from Soham led to the biggest missing persons hunt in British history, Ms Carr admitted immediately that she had given Mr Huntley a false alibi.

The young woman - who has pleaded not guilty to two counts of assisting an offender and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - explained her false statement by saying that Mr Huntley had suffered a breakdown after being accused of rape four years earlier before eventually being acquitted. She wanted to protect him while police found the "real killer".

During three days of police interviews, she described the former caretaker - who denies the double murder - as an equal partner and a non-violent man. Their relationship was a team effort, she insisted.

But yesterday, she suggested that he was abusive and controlling. He had left her no choice about lying to give him a false alibi because she had been "pushed into a corner".

It was his suggestion, not her idea as she had first claimed, that she initially said that she was in the bath at their Cambridgeshire home when the girls turned up, when she was in fact more than 100 miles away in Grimsby.

Mr Coward asked her why she was only now admitting that she had been stunned to notice upon her return on the Tuesday that the man she described as a slob had cleaned his car, changed the boot carpet and carried out a series of domestic chores. In police interviews she had never mentioned the fact that their bed linen was in the washing machine.

Mr Huntley, in his evidence, had claimed not to know how to even use the machine. He had merely sponged down the sheets after a drop from Holly's nosebleed had fallen on them during a brief interlude in the bedroom, he said.

"What has caused you to say things now in evidence which are different from what you told police?" asked Mr Coward.

At the time the man she loved was being accused of murder, and she thought she was being investigated for the same crime, she explained, adding: "I was not going to add anything bad - that's why a lot of the time I was trying to make it look better for Ian."

"You, Maxine Carr, decided you were going to tell lies?" asked the barrister.

Her hands placed either side of the witness box, she leant forward to his challenge. "Yes sir. I had no choice," she replied, adding later: "He had pushed me into a corner."

"You have no idea about the relationship I have with Mr Huntley," she said. "You don't know what kind of person Ian Huntley is towards me."

Agreeing she now had a "mind of her own" after 16 months' separation, she said: "He had a very controlling attitude towards me." She added: "I am hardly going to tell them [the police] he is an abusive and a person who controls you."

"Why not, if it is the truth?" asked the barrister.

"Because I was scared, I was going home to that man at the end of the day," she replied.

She had initially lied to police, not to stop them catching Holly and Jessica's killer, but to prevent them "wasting time" on what she was utterly convinced was the wrong man, she said.

It then fell to the prosecutor Richard Latham QC to challenge her version of events. She had "cooked up" the alibi on the Monday before her return to Soham - as she initially told police and Mr Huntley's mother Lyn in a conversation from prison. No, she retorted, it was not until the Tuesday that he had begun suggesting strands of their story.

When she had promised she was coming clean with police following her arrest, Mr Latham added, she had simply been telling another set of lies by leaving out crucial evidence

Insisting that she had not realised that the duvet in the washing machine was "relevant" at the time, Ms Carr explained repeatedly: "They were alive when they left my house because that man said so."

Mr Latham pointed out that she had also not told police she knew the girls had been in the house after, she says, Mr Huntley claimed Jessica had a nosebleed. She had not mentioned that she had been told they had been upstairs in the bathroom and bedroom.

As an "intelligent" woman, the fact that the girls had been in the cottage, and that Mr Huntley had cleaned parts of the house and car at a time when the whole of Soham was consumed with Holly and Jessica's disappearance must have been a matter of concern. No, she replied, "he had answers for everything".

In particular the "strange" sight of the duvet in the washing machine must have concerned her, Mr Latham said, adding: "What was the first thing that went through your head?"

"That he had a woman in the house," said Ms Carr.

"Sex?" interjected the barrister.

"Yes. With a woman, sir," replied the defendant.

In the context of everything that was going on, "you are saying even though you immediately thought sex, it never occurred to you that the washing had something to do with the two girls?" persisted Mr Latham

"No, that's disgusting," she answered.

Ms Carr claimed that she had never even discussed the duvet with Mr Huntley as it would have been a "stupid question" at a time when Holly and Jessica were missing.

The fact that Mr Huntley had described every later witness as "unreliable" must have rung "alarm bells", Mr Latham continued. Ms Carr replied: "Nothing was going through my mind apart from those children going missing."

When she had referred to the girls being "out of the equation" during her evidence, Mr Latham continued, she had not simply been referring to the fact that she believed they had left the house.

"You had worked out they were dead?" he said, adding that she was merely trying to protect her partner's job and reputation, and her own future. "No," came the reply.

As Mr Latham accused Ms Carr of embellishing her story as she told journalists she wished she had talked to the girls when they dropped by, she broke down once again.

In a trembling voice she replied: "I have been feeling very guilty for a long time. If I was there I would have stopped them from dying."

YESTERDAY IN COURT

* During cross-examination from Stephen Coward, the counsel for Mr Huntley, Maxine Carr said she falsified her alibi to protect her former lover from earlier rape allegations re-emerging. "I was scared," she said. "I was going home to that man at the end of the day"

* A more sinister edge to the relationship between Mr Huntley and Ms Carr also emerged yesterday. Ms Carr, who has spent seven hours in the witness box in the past two days, said: "He had a very controlling attitude towards me"

* When Ms Carr was asked if she accepted she had diverted justice, she insisted she had not believed that her former fiancé had carried out the murders. "I believed the person was still out there," she said

* During further cross-examination from Richard Latham, counsel for the prosecution, it emerged that Ms Carr was aware of the fact that the girls had been in the house, in the bathroom and in the bedroom and on the bed by 10.30am on Tuesday morning

* Mr Latham highlighted the fact Ms Carr overheard Mr Huntley "conceal" from police the fact that one of the girls was bleeding when they came to visit

* He went on to accuse Ms Carr of deliberately lying during an interview with police. "You were listening to your partner lying and then you were lying," he told her. "Yes," she replied

* Ms Carr insisted that she had backed Mr Huntley because she knew that the girls had walked away from the house

* It was only in the aftermath of her arrest on suspicion of murder she realised the "absolutely crucial" implications of a number of facts, for example the new carpet in the car boot, the washing on the line and the flooding in the dining room.

* Breaking down into tears, Ms Carr said: "The only piece of information that stayed in my mind was that the girls left the house - they went away happy and laughing ... They were alive when they left my house because that man said so."

* She wept again when her lawyer, Michael Hubbard, asked her if she would have taken a bath in the house if she had thought that the girls had been killed there.