Ian Huntley was identified as a serial sex attacker by the police three years before he murdered Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, yet no action was taken against him, it was revealed yesterday.
A police intelligence report on Huntley stated in 1999 that "it is quite clear that Huntley is a serial sex attacker and is at liberty to continue his activities".
But the file, which was compiled after a series of allegations accusing Huntley of rape and sexual assault, was destroyed by Humberside Police a year after it was completed.
The blunder was revealed at the start of an inquiry into how Huntley was able to get a job as a caretaker at Soham Village College in December 2001, despite his history of alleged sexual assaults. The inquiry, chaired by Sir Michael Bichard, heard yesterday of a series of failings by Humberside Police and the regional social services that allowed Huntley to have sex with at least four underage girls and failed to record details of a string of rape allegations. Huntley was jailed for life for the murder in August 2002 of the two 10-year-olds in Soham.
Despite there being nine previous allegations of sexual offences, including an assault on an 11-year-old girl, the police only completed one intelligence report on Huntley. The report, by PC Michael Harding, of Grimsby CID, said that Huntley had come to the police's attention because of four separate rape allegations and one indecent assault. He wrote in an intelligence file that was sent to fellow officers: "Huntley on all these occasions has targeted women he knows or has befriended, usually in nightclubs. He either accompanies them home or walks with them and then rapes them. The problems with all of the cases has been that the victims have all known Huntley and he has admitted having sex with them but with consent."
He continued: "It is quite clear that Huntley is a serial sex attacker and is at liberty to continue his activities. It may well be that other women have been forced to have sex with him after nightclub smooches and have decided not to report it.''
The file, written in July 1999, was sent to Grimsby and Scunthorpe CID offices, which covered the regions where Huntley had been living. But in July 2000 a civilian police worker "weeded" or expunged the report from computer records after deeming it irrelevant.
The intelligence failure was one of a series highlighted at the opening of the Bichard inquiry. The police and social workers from what was then Northeast Lincolnshire Social Services allowed Huntley to have underage sex with a series of girls, it also emerged. In one case, a social worker arranged for a 15-year-old girl to live with Huntley, who was 21 at the time, at his Grimsby flat despite knowing that he was illegally having sex with the teenager, the inquiry heard.
James Eadie, counsel to the inquiry, described a series of similar cases in which no charges were brought against Huntley despite him admitting having underage sex.
The few details that were recorded on three separate computer systems were weeded out by the Humberside police force, which has since been criticised for misunderstanding the Data Protection Act and unnecessarily deleting important information.
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