Carr's lies 'devious and calculating', Old Bailey is told

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The Independent Online

Maxine Carr told detailed and devious lies, knowing or believing her partner had killed Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the trial was told yesterday.

Far from being oblivious to the situation, the girls' former classroom assistant had devised an elaborate alibi with Ian Huntley, her boyfriend at the time, Richard Latham QC said.

As Mr Latham closed his opening speeches for the prosecution at the Old Bailey on the third day, he turned his attention to the 26-year-old woman. "Standing by your man is no lawful authority or reasonable excuse."

Ms Carr, in a navy suit, faced the court alone in the dock, her former partner having been taken ill yesterday. He denies murdering the 10-year-olds; she has pleaded not guilty to two counts of assisting an offender and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The seven women and five men on the jury were told how Ms Carr had lied to police, a deception repeated in television interviews, about being with Mr Huntley in Soham, Cambridgeshire, on 4 August 2002, the day Holly and Jessica disappeared.

Yet she was more than 100 miles away, visiting her mother in Grimsby, returning only when collected two days later, the prosecution said.

She began to change her story after she was arrested on 17 August, Mr Latham told the jury. "She said [Mr] Huntley, before she knew him, had been falsely accused of a crime and it was several months before the charge or charges against him were dropped. On that occasion, she understood he had a nervous breakdown. When she heard that Sunday he was the last person to see the girls alive she didn't want him to go through the whole thing again."

But, Mr Latham said, she was still not telling the whole truth. On remand in Holloway, she twice phoned Mr Huntley's mother, Lynda, apparently ignoring signs that warned inmates calls were taped, and conceded for the first time she knew the girls had been in their house.

She admitted she had discussed lying with Mr Huntley on the Monday afternoon, and added: "He told me ... 'Maxine, they came into our house. One of them had a nose bleed and then they left'."

A fortnight later, in another call: "He said to me that she [Jessica] got up and she was holding her nose and she was over the sink in the bathroom ... He said the little toilet downstairs didn't have any toilet paper so he told them to go up." One of the girls had been by the bath, later found to have a cracked casing, and the other was sitting on the end of their bed.

Mr Latham said: "It follows she was aware from the very outset, before she saw [Mr] Huntley after the Sunday evening, that he was much more seriously implicated than she was to admit, even in interview."

The prosecution says, in the days after the girls' disappearance, Mr Huntley had calculatingly and calmly covered his tracks, cleaning the tied caretaker's cottage they shared and "sanitising" his car, and Ms Carr must have been aware. "If the ultimate spring-clean is going on around you, it is not something you fail to notice," Mr Latham said.