Huntley could not be the killer, Carr told officers

Holly and Jessica's classroom assistant said to police that they should 'pull their fingers out' and find the 'real person'

Maxine Carr told police that her fiancé Ian Huntley was not a paedophile and could not have killed Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

The jury in the murder trial heard extracts from police interviews in which she became distressed and monosyllabic after detectives produced their findings which linked Mr Huntley to the 10-year-olds' deaths, the court was told.

She repeatedly replied "no" when officers announced that Mr Huntley had been formally charged with murder after his fingerprints were found on a bag in a bin alongside the girls' charred clothing. "No, he can't have been, it can't have been, he can't have been," she replied in tears.

Despite her lawyer's claims that she was in no fit state to continue, Ms Carr, now 26, insisted on proceeding, protesting Mr Huntley's innocence, and her own. The police, she said, should pull their fingers out and find the "real person".

Within days of Holly and Jessica's disappearance Ms Carrclaimed that she had been at home in Soham on 4 August 2002, upstairs in the bath when the school friends stopped outside to talk to Mr Huntley.

It was not until her arrest almost a fortnight later that the girls' former temporary teaching assistant admitted that she had in fact been visiting her mother in Grimsby.

She said Mr Huntley had been "rattled" because he was the last person to speak to the girls. In 1998 he had been accused of rape and imprisoned until CCTV footage of him in a nightclub at the time led to his acquittal. He did not want to be "fitted up" again. She said she provided him with a false alibi to protect him from being "harassed" all over again.

Yesterday the Old Bailey murder trial listened to transcripts of police interviews after her arrest and the discovery of the girls' bodies in a ditch near Lakenheath air base, Suffolk. During the interviews she discussed Arsenal Football Club, plane-spotting and using rubber gloves to pick up Mr Huntley's pet rats. As details emerged of the police investigation she became distressed.

She said she knew her partner of more than three years better than anyone in the world, and described him as a non-violent man. Far from having sexual fantasies about children, he thought paedophiles should be castrated, she told the police in her interviews read to the court.

Because the last caretaker at Soham Village College had been dismissed after a relationship with a girl, he did not allow youngsters in the house unless she was there, Ms Carr said. "He has done nothing wrong. I love him and this is all wrong," she said, adding that she would not cover for him if she thought that he had murdered the two girls. She said she felt "physically sick" when she learnt that they had vanished. "I want to protect him from the past, not the present or the future," she said.

Days after her arrest, officers informed her about the fingerprints found on a bag in the same bin as the girls' clothes. Pointing to a map marked with the spot where the bodies were dumped, officers demonstrated how close the spot was to Mr Huntley's father's former home and his favourite plane-spotting area. "Open your eyes," said Detective Constable Jonathan Taylor. "It is not Ian," she replied. "Look at the facts," said the officer. "It is not Ian ... he could not have done something like this and carried on as normal," Ms Carr replied.

She had scrubbed the house from top to bottom ­ including washing velvet curtains in her machine ­ when she got back from Grimsby because she was obsessive about cleanliness, she said. Domestic chores were her duty as Mr Huntley was a "slouch" about them. Despite admitting that he had once slapped her during an argument, she said that they were equal partners, a team, and he did not intimidate her.

Ms Carr said Mr Huntley had not approved of her decision to lie to police about her whereabouts and was nervous that she would get caught out. But when detectives produced an apparent aide memoire of her story, discovered in the cottage the couple shared, she was forced to acknowledge that it was in his handwriting. She said he had taken notes of what she told him.

Mr Huntley, 29, denies the double murder, while Ms Carr has pleaded not guilty to two counts of assisting an offender and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The trial continues.

Extracts from Carr's questioning by police

Officer: "So who was the last person to speak to Holly and Jessica?"

Carr: "Ian I think."

Officer: "Who's got access to the hanger?"

Carr: "Ian."

Officer: "Whose fingerprints are on the bag?"

Carr: "Ian."

Officer: "Who lived near Wangford?"

Carr: "Ian."

Officer: "Who goes to Lakenheath spotting aeroplanes?"

Carr: "He hasn't been there in ages."

Officer: "Who had a false alibi?"

Carr: "Ian."

Officer: "Who had his house cleaned by Maxine?"

Carr: "He didn't have his house cleaned by Maxine."

Officer: "He did."

Carr: "It's my flaming house!"

Officer: "Is it? It's the caretaker's cottage."

Carr: "It's my home."

Officer: "Mmmm hmmm."

Carr: "I'm the housewife, I'm the cleaner, if I'm not allowed to clean my own house it's a bit bad. Do you think I'd get down on my hands and knees and scrub something that I knew that something had happened?"

Officer: "Well, would you?"

Carr: "No I bloody wouldn't! I ain't got nothing to do with this at all and he ain't got owt either!"

Officer: "Maxine you're wearing blinkers."

Carr: "I'm not wearing blinkers."

Officer: "You are."

Carr: "I'm not wearing blinkers, he wouldn't do anything like this."