Images of the 'two little Beckhams' that will haunt the nation forever

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The Independent Online

It is not the girls' smiles or matching Manchester United shirts which pack the greatest punch. It is the clock in the background reading 5.04pm.

Ninety minutes later the friends entered the home of Ian Huntley. Apart from CCTV images filmed during the journey to their killer's house, the famous photograph of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman was the final image to be taken of the girls. The photograph was taken by Holly's mother, Nicola.

Mrs Wells had got the camera out to take a picture of her guest, Trudy Wright, when the schoolfriends appeared and asked her to take a snap of them. The girls were wearing similar outfits, down to their necklaces. Jessica's tan and braid from her recent holiday, Holly's beaming smile; the identical shirts emblazoned with the name of a heartthrob footballer- all speak of ordinary, modern childhood.

Shortly before the trial began, Huntley's defence team argued that the photograph should not be included in a bundle of images given to the jury, because it was too emotive.

Richard Latham QC, for the prosecution, while insisting that it was an important depiction of their appearance shortly before they died, said: "It is an image that will haunt the nation forever".

Holly and Jessica barely had a chance to explore life before it was taken away from them. Holly loved to dance, and choreographed routines to tracks from her favourite band, S Club Juniors. A "bubbly, outgoing" schoolgirl, she was a majorette and played the cornet. The second child of Kevin Wells, 40, a contract cleaner and his wife Nicola, 36, a secretary, her family were well known in the town.

When the pupils of St Andrew's were allowed to bring something in to school to play with for the day, Holly chose a soft toy, which she cuddled contentedly. Enthusiastic and chatty, she was quick to hug her former teaching assistant, Maxine Carr, when she spotted her on the street.

When she learnt that "Miss Carr" was leaving, Holly sat down and carefully constructed a colourful card, complete with a large smiley face. In it she wrote: "It's class 12's special TA [teaching assistant], we will miss her a lot and will say, see you in the future Miss Carr, don't leave us, don't go far.'

An obedient child, she knew her curfews well and kept to them. On the night the girls disappeared, her mother panicked when the allotted hour of 8.30pm passed.

Jessica was a tomboy with a chatty, inquisitive nature. She was happiest in trousers but had eagerly agreed to make a concession to put on a dress should Carr pick her as a bridesmaid. Football was a passion. She was a member of the Soham Town Rangers under-11s team and had a picture of the England team on her bedroom wall. Alongside it was a WWF wrestling poster, another sport that she loved to watch.

She was also a keen swimmer who often joined her older sisters Rebecca, 17, and Alison, 15, at the pool. When Rebecca was one of the organiser's of the Soham Village College prom, Jessica eagerly helped her out, decorating the hall where it was to be held with streamers.

The youngest daughter of Sharon, 44, a learning support assistant, and Leslie Chapman, 52, an engineer, she hated the dark and was frightened of big dogs and insects.

She was, her mother said, "totally honest" and would always call home before going anywhere, even if she knew she might be in trouble.

The girls' teacher in year five of St Andrew's primary school described them as loyal friends, but not inseparable.

Joy Pederson said she would always rely on the pair, who she said were bright and well-behaved 10-year-olds who mixed well with their classmates, for small tasks because they were "sensible and reliable". They were conscientious pupils who never had to be reprimanded for failing to do their homework.

As the Old Bailey listened to statements about the girls' last few hours alive, their mothers could have been describing a thousand families across the country. Holly's father shielding the barbecue from rain in the garage, her mother repeatedly urging the children to get out of bed in the morning, the "giggling" girls playing quiz games on the office computer.

On 3 August, the day before the girls' disappearance, Mrs Wells had taken Holly and another friend, Natalie Parr, shopping while Holly's brother and a friend went to the cinema. She had bought Holly her first bra - a mother's acknowledgement that her daughter was growing up.