Soham on alert after girls tell of stalker

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The Independent Online

Fear hung again over the home town of the murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman yesterday after police warned parents to be vigilant. The alarm was raised because two girls were approached separately by a man.

Police in Soham were quick to stress there was no link with the deaths of the two 10-year-olds last August but the caution was a sharp reminder of their loss. Yesterday officers were making house-to-house inquiries in and around the Cambridgeshire town. A police spokeswoman said: "Increased patrols are being made and officers are warning parents to report anything suspicious."

On Thursday, a 13-year-old girl was followed home from Soham Village College by a man in a car, who asked her if she wanted a lift home. The girl, who refused, said the driver was white, between 60 and 65, with a grey beard and little hair.

The spokeswoman said: "She has also said the man had a chubby face and one or two hooped earrings in his right ear, a stud at the top of his right ear and a ring on his left hand. [He] spoke with what she said was a lisp and an accent."

Twenty-four hours later, an eight-year-old said she was approached by a similar-looking man in nearby Wicken. "The girl ran back to her father who was sitting on a nearby bench and police were called," the spokeswoman added.

Holly and Jessica disappeared on 4 August 2002. When they were found dead in a copse near Lakenheath air base, Suffolk, 13 days later, a national outpouring of outrage and grief was experienced.

Ian Huntley, a school caretaker, denies murdering them but has admitted conspiring to pervert justice. His former partner, Maxine Carr, denies helping an offender and perverting justice. Their trial starts at the Old Bailey in October.

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