Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Soham Murders Trial

Piecing Together the Facts

Stephen Coward QC, Huntley defense attorney
Stephen Coward QC, Huntley
defense attorney

Three weeks into the trial Huntley made a momentous admission. After vigorously denying he had any knowledge of the girls' whereabouts or how they died, he finally confessed that he was responsible for the girls' deaths, although he suggested they were accidental. His admission was a significant boost for the prosecution's case, even though they believed his story to be riddled with inconsistencies.

Stephen Coward QC offered a statement from Huntley who was not in court because he was supposedly ill, claiming that the girls stopped by his house to talk to Ms. Carr and during that time Holly had a nosebleed. The BBC reported in a November 25, 2003 article that Huntley led the girls to his bathroom where he purportedly tended to Holly's nosebleed in the bathtub. The article further suggested that while reaching over to wet pieces of toilette paper, Huntley accidentally knocked Holly backwards and into the bathtub, which was half full of water.

Bathroom crime scene
Bathroom crime scene

Huntley claimed that Jessica began screaming and in an effort to quiet her he put his hand over her mouth and in the process "accidentally" suffocated her. He said that he then looked at Holly in the bathtub and realized that she was also dead. Huntley further admitted to putting the girls in his car and driving them to Lakenheath, cutting off their clothes, which he later took back to Soham and burning the bodies with petrol.

Maxine Carr in court
Maxine Carr in court

That same week, Carr also made a confession.  According to a November 27, 2003 BBC News article, Carr told police that, "it was her idea to claim she was in the house she shared with Mr. Huntley on the day Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman disappeared." Carr said that in an effort to protect her boyfriend, who she believed was innocent of murder, she used a "crib card" with alibi details to assist her in lying more effectively to police. Carr alleged that she lied because she wanted to prevent a 1998 "false" rape allegation against Huntley from being unearthed again. The rape allegation was dropped shortly after it was reported because police were able to establish that Huntley was in a different location from the young woman at the time the supposed assault took place.

Girls' shirts, evidence at trial
Girls' shirts, evidence at trial

Nevertheless, even though Huntley confessed to killing the girls, he continued to claim that Jessica and Holly's deaths were accidental. However, he did admit to one charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice, the BBC News reported in their December 2003 article. Huntley's admission of guilt ushered in the end of the prosecution's case and the beginning of the defenses opening arguments. The defense team would have its work cut out trying to prove that the deaths were accidental, as Huntley purported. It was clear, if not to the jury then to everyone else that the likelihood of Huntley unintentionally killing the girls was doubtful. The reality of what occurred that day was in all probability much grimmer.

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