Soham jury to retire after judge says: 'Don't be overawed'

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The Independent Online

The jury in the Soham murder trial is expected to be sent out today to consider its verdicts, after the judge warned them not to let emotion influence them in this "tragic case".

Mr Justice Moses said it was "idle to pretend" that the deaths of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman did not provoke a strong response but that their judgement must be made on the evidence alone.

He added: "You decide where the truth lies. No more and no less is required of you. Do not be overawed by the gravity of the allegation."

Mr Justice Moses gave his address to the seven women and five men of the jury on the 26th day of the Old Bailey trial, after barristers for the prosecution and defence had completed their closing speeches.

Ian Huntley, 29, denies the double murder but has admitted conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Maxine Carr, 26, his former partner, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of assisting an offender and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The five-week trial heard Mr Huntley admit that the 10-year-olds died in his house shortly after they vanished from their home town of Soham, Cambridgeshire, on 4 August 2002. He claimed Holly accidentally drowned and Jessica was smothered to death as he tried to stop her screaming. After dumping their bodies in a ditch near Lakenheath airbase, Suffolk, where they would be found a fortnight later, the prosecution claimed Huntley meticulously covered his tracks. The couple insisted Ms Carr had been upstairs in their bathroom that night when, in fact, she was more than 100 miles away in Grimsby. She later told the jury that she lied to protect the man she loved from being "fitted up", convinced he was not involved in the girls' disappearance.

Mr Justice Moses gave the jury a series of 12 questions they might wish to consider when coming to their verdicts.

He offered the jury the option of returning a gross negligence manslaughter conviction when considering Holly's death if they concluded Mr Huntley's account of events was true.

He added: "If you are sure that it is not there, there is no need to consider gross negligence manslaughter."

The judge said the jury should only consider the two charges of assisting an offender against Ms Carr if they were convinced Mr Huntley was guilty of murder and that they need only debate the accusation of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice charge against her if they had acquitted her of the first two charges.

Earlier in the day, Ms Carr's barrister Michael Hubbard QC was the last lawyer to make his closing speech, saying his clienthad "suffered enough". He said: "She was deceived as much as anyone else by Ian Huntley. He has deceived everyone you can think of." Mr Hubbard claimed that Holly and Jessica's former teaching assistant, who had been vilified and compared with Myra Hindley, the child killer, had been unaware of the "incalculably evil side" of Mr Huntley. He said: "She has gone through a very painful process or discovery about this man. The dark side of a person doesn't always emerge. Members of the jury, we invite you to say, enough is enough for Maxine Carr."

Holding up the card Holly gave to Miss Carr on the last day of her school term, the barrister denied the prosecution claim that she had worked out what Mr Huntley had done to the schoolfriends. He said: "This card, we suggest, speaks volumes. These two little girls were very special to Maxine Carr and she to them. And we suggest it is almost preposterous to suggest that she would conceal what Huntley did."

Miss Carr accepted she told lies but only out of an overwhelming desire to protect her partner, he claimed.

Reminding the jury of her "distraught anguish" when she spoke to Mr Huntley's mother, Lynda, from prison, he said: "That wasn't the tone of someone who had worked it out."