Soham parents tell of desperate hunt

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The desperate hours after the disappearance of Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were relived today at their Old Bailey murder trial.

The parents of both girls described the frantic search and their growing sense of panic after the 10-year-olds vanished on Sunday August 4 last year.

Holly's father Kevin revealed that he met the girls' alleged killer Ian Huntley as he searched for his daughter and her best friend in the early hours of August 5.

Huntley, 29, who denies the double child murder, left the dock during the parents' evidence, which was read from their police statements.

The two sets of parents sat in the court as their words were read out by prosecution lawyers.

Jessica's mother Sharon Chapman described the terrible moment when she and Holly's mother Nicola Wells decided they had to call police.

Frantic searches had failed to find any trace of the girls, who had vanished after a barbecue at the Wells family home in Soham, Cambridgeshire, and Mrs Chapman could bear it no longer.

She said: "I said to Nicola 'Do you want to do it or should I?'.

"I looked at Nicola and she looked at me.

"I said 'I have only got my mobile, give me your phone'."

Holly's father Kevin said in his police statements that Huntley approached him after a police news conference at Soham Village College following the girls' disappearance. He said the younger man looked "terrible", with "panda eyes and bags under them".

Mr Wells, 40, who was the only one of the parents not in court today, said: "I was aware of somebody standing just behind my left shoulder, too close for comfort and invading my personal space.

"I turned round and saw it was Ian Huntley. I said 'Hello'.

"He said 'Kevin, I'm so sorry. I did not realise it was your daughter'.

"I said, 'I know, thank you for your kind words, it just beggars belief, doesn't it?', or something to that effect.

"He agreed and said 'Yes, I know'."

Mr Wells said Huntley told him he needed to speak to the police because he had to change the time in his statements.

He said he was not alarmed and showed him to the police liaison officer, saying: "This is Ian Huntley, he wants to change his statement."