Police search third home in Soham investigation

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The Independent Online

Police investigating the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman widened their search yesterday to take in a house four miles from where the girls were found.

Just after 9ama team of nine forensic science officers from Norfolk cordoned off a close in Lakenheath before beginning to search a bungalow.

They spent eight hours going through the home of Lily Gollings, the paternal grandmother of Ian Huntley, 28. He has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act at Rampton secure hospital, charged with murdering the two girls. Police stressed that the search was routine.

Yesterday officers were still standing guard outside the home of Mr Huntley's father in nearby Littleport, though a three-day search of the pale brick bungalow has now been completed with 50 items sent off for further examination.

But yesterday Operation Fincham search teams were continuing to comb through the house Mr Huntley shared with his fiancée Maxine Carr, 25, now on remand at Holloway Prison accused of perverting the course of justice, as well as the surrounding Soham Village College, where he worked as a caretaker. Last night Cambridgeshire County Council said it was "far too early" to decide the fate of the buildings after reports that the caretaker's house might have to be demolished.

This morning the South and West Cambridgeshire coroner David Morris will open inquests into the deaths of the 10-year-olds. The hearings will be adjourned pending the outcome of any criminal proceedings.

Police said yesterday that it would be some time before officers completed their investigations around the spot near Lakenheath air base, where the girls were found by a gamekeeper over the weekend. On Wednesday, the girls' parents – Kevin and Nicola Wells and Sharon and Leslie Chapman – made private visits to the spot, where hundreds of bouquets of flowers have been left along with the thousands now outside the parish church in Soham.

There appeared to be little sign yesterday that the national, and even international, outpouring of sympathy and grief was slowing down. By mid-afternoon almost 160,000 people had left messages of condolence on two websites set up by Cambridgeshire Police and the county council.

In another show of the strength of feeling the case has generated, the Football Association announced that a minute's silence would be held at every League game this weekend. Manchester United and Chelsea will be the first to observe the silence before their Premier League game tonight.

"The whole of the nation has been shocked by the deaths of Holly and Jessica," the FA director Paul Barber said. Jessica, in particular, enjoyed playing the game and both girls were wearing Manchester United shirts when they were last seen at 7.20pm on 4 August.

Soham is still struggling to come to terms with the shock of the double killing. The town's vicar, the Reverend Tim Alban Jones, said: "One of the things that has struck me since we heard of the deaths of these two little girls is that we are not alone in all this. It seems to me that these tragic events, which have scarred us so deeply, have also touched the hearts of many other people across the country and throughout the world."

Yesterday 300 16-year-olds were forced to collect their GCSE results from the library because of the ongoing search of their school. Howard Gilbert, the principal, congratulated his pupils on "excellent" results, with 69 per cent of candidates gaining at least five As to Cs.

It is still not known exactly how Holly and Jessica died after a post-mortem examination proved inconclusive. It may be some time before all tests are completed, delaying their funerals.

* One hundred extra staff have been drafted in by the Criminal Records Bureau to ensure that thousands of teachers and other school employees have been cleared by police to work with children in time for the new term. Teaching agencies had voiced concern over a growing backlog that had threatened to leave nurseries and schools short of staff.