Soham families ask for privacy

The families of murdered Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman have decided to spend tomorrow's first anniversary of their deaths away from the Cambridgeshire town.

Police said: "The parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman will be spending the day with their immediate families away from the Soham area."

On 4 August last year Holly and Jessica, both 10, vanished shortly after being seen walking near their homes. Their bodies were found in a ditch near Lakenheath, Suffolk, two weeks later.

There are no plans for special services to mark the anniversary and police have urged people to stay away from Soham over the anniversary period.

The town's vicar, the Rev Tim Alban Jones, said the nation's reaction to the disappearance and murders of the schoolgirls had shown that "goodness was stronger than evil", while the police added in their statement that: "[The families of Holly and Jessica] wish to thank people for their kind thoughts and hope people appreciate their desire for privacy at this time."

In a "reflective piece" written to mark the anniversary, Mr Alban Jones, vicar of St Andrew's Church, said:"Some people have asked me what is the thing that strikes me most when looking back over the past 12 months.

"There are a few moments that perhaps stand out in my memory, but throughout the whole year we have witnessed countless deeds of kindness. There have been innumerable people who have responded with outstanding compassion, love and generous good-will.

"All these many deeds of kindness and thoughtfulness show that love is stronger than hatred. Ultimately, goodness is stronger than evil."

Two people have been charged in connection with the girls' deaths.

Ian Huntley, 29, a former caretaker at Soham Village College, denies murdering the girls but admits to conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

Maxine Carr, 26, who lived with Huntley in Soham and was an assistant in Holly's and Jessica's class, denies helping an offender and perverting the course of justice.

They are due to stand trial at the Old Bailey in London on 6 October.

"It seems hard to believe that a year has passed since the events of last August that brought Soham into the spotlight of the national media," said Mr Alban Jones.

"In some ways the time has gone quickly, yet in many ways each week and month seems to have been unnaturally long. Throughout the intervening months we have all been constantly aware of the needs of two grieving families. As anyone who has been bereaved will tell you, for those who grieve, time can pass very slowly indeed.

"It was perhaps naive to think that the attentions of the press would lessen. The intensity of media coverage that last summer's tragedy generated has guaranteed that people have not forgotten Holly and Jessica and they have not forgotten the town of Soham," he added.