Huntley admits cutting clothes from dead girls, jury told

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ian Huntley cut the clothes from the bodies of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and tried to burn them in a bin, his defence barrister said yesterday.

Stephen Coward QC made the admission on a day when the prosecution meticulously detailed forensic evidence against the former caretaker who denies murdering the 10-year-old girls.

Twenty-four hours before the friends' partly burnt bodies were found in an isolated ditch, the charred remains of their clothes, including their underwear, were uncovered in a hangar at their school where Mr Huntley worked. The court has been told he is unlikely to dispute that Holly and Jessica died in his home.

Mr Coward, cross-examining a forensic scientist, Roger Blackmore, said: "My client's case is, having cut off the clothes at the deposition site [ditch], he brought them back to Soham, put them inside one of the bins outside the hangar, set fire to the contents then replaced the bin inside the hangar. That is at least a possibility, is it not?"

"It is," Mr Blackmore said.

Yesterday, both sets of parents sat stony-faced as photographs of each item of clothing as well as replicas were produced before the court. Another forensic scientist, Helen Davey, showed a white version of Holly's Manchester United shirt. Across the front, jagged cut marks were drawn. Ms Davey, asked what may have made the cut said: "The nature and appearance indicated they were made by a relatively sharp pair of scissors."

Across the plasma screens around the Old Bailey's court Number One, a small bra and trainers were flashed up to show their varying levels of charring and where they had been cut. A small bracelet bearing a picture of a dolphin and a half-finished pack of mints were in Jessica's tracksuit pocket.

There was a bloodstain on the back of Holly's size three trainer, Dr Davey said, and another on a cloth found amid the clothing. She found no positive evidence of semen.

The court heard that five of Mr Huntley's hairs were found among the debris, while more than half a dozen of his prints covered the bin-liner which had been placed on top. None of the girls' hairs were discovered in the tied cottage he shared with his partner Maxine Carr and the only fingerprints were on a box of chocolates Holly had given the temporary classroom assistant just days earlier.

Richard Latham QC said a two-way transfer of fibres had been found. In total, 154 fibres or hairs had been exchanged between the girls' clothing and Mr Huntley's attire, home or car. As well as fibres from the caretakers' clothes, the girls' shirts had evidence of carpet on them, which could have either come from the boot of the car or the house. A third forensic scientist, Peter Lamb, said "My conclusions were there was very strong scientific evidence that Mr Huntley had been in direct contact with the clothing of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman."

Holly and Jessica's disappearance in their home town of Soham, Cambridgeshire, in August last year 2002 prompted a massive missing persons hunt.

Mr Huntley, 29, denies murder, and his former partner Miss Carr, 26, has pleaded not guilty to assisting an offender and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The trial continues.