'Would they have gone out if I stayed?'

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The Independent Online

One of Holly and Jessica's closest friends told yesterday how she cried herself to sleep and how she felt guilt over leaving Holly's house on the day the girls were murdered.

Natalie Parr stayed at Holly's house on the Saturday night before she disappeared. She and Holly had enjoyed a midnight feast of sweets by the light of their mobile phones.

In the morning, they were joined by Jessica, who had returned from a holiday in Menorca. Natalie was collected by her mother less than six hours before the girls left the home.

Natalie, now 12, told Sky News yesterday she had often thought "if only" of that day: "It's hard because I don't know whether if I'd stayed there they wouldn't have gone - I just don't know."

Natalie said she had dealt with the girls' deaths by writing a diary. "Sometimes, especially at night, I'll go to bed and I'll read a book and write my diary and then I just lay there and cry - just to get my emotions out," she said. Natalie said she and the girls knew Maxine Carr well and that Carr even invited them to her wedding. "And she was just like an everyday person to us. We didn't realise those actions were going to affect us so much."

Of Huntley, Natalie said: "I hate him to pieces really.I personally don't think they should be allowed to stand up and talk any more."

Natalie said she had had to grow up quickly after losing her friends. "I've matured and I'm getting used to the fact of what's happened and I know how to cope," she said.

Natalie's mother, Catherine, 38, said she and her daughter were "very emotional" after the verdicts.

Natalie was one of four 10-year-olds in a television appeal to get Holly and Jessica back. At the time she said: "Holly and Jessica are like sisters to me and I miss them so much."