All-Night Search, Then Police Swoop; Holly and Jessica: Despite Public Criticism over the Progress of the Inquiry, Local Officers Already Had Suspects in Their Sights

By Smith, Martin | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

All-Night Search, Then Police Swoop; Holly and Jessica: Despite Public Criticism over the Progress of the Inquiry, Local Officers Already Had Suspects in Their Sights


Smith, Martin, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: MARTIN SMITH

ON Thursday night, 11 days after Holly and Jessica disappeared, Cambridgeshire Constabulary was a police force under siege. The detectives leading the hunt for the girls were facing serious and mounting concerns from the public and the media over the conduct of the inquiry.

As criticism mounted, an elite squad of Scotland Yard detectives arrived with a brief to completely review and, if necessary, overhaul the force's investigation methods.

Soon after their arrival came a breakthrough in what has tragically now become one of Britain's biggest-ever murder inquiries. It appeared to the outside world that the cavalry from the Met had cracked the case.

In fact, sources close to the inquiry have told The Mail on Sunday that the Cambridgeshire force was closely scrutinising the evidence of school caretaker Ian Huntley and his girlfriend Maxine Carr but had to wait until time-consuming and detailed analysis and collation of the evidence was complete.

Until the breakthrough, the force's apparent ineffectiveness was compounded by the public's dismay at an admission by the man who had been put in charge of the inquiry, Detective Superintendent David Beck, that when he went to Soham last Wednesday it was his first visit since the girls disappeared.

The force reacted on Thursday morning by replacing Mr Beck - whose speciality is hostage negotiation and who only 24 hours earlier had made a direct but fruitless appeal for the abductor to call him - with Keith Hoddy, Cambridgeshire's acting deputy chief constable.

Another highly-experienced officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Stevenson, was also brought in.

At the same time, it was revealed that officers from the Metropolitan Police's Serious Crime Group had been called in to review the investigation.

Although it is routine to ask another force to review major cases, it is normally done after 28 days. The Met was called in after only ten.

The Scotland Yard team was led by Detective Superintendent David Beggs, who had initial command of the investigation into the torso of a boy found in the River Thames 11 months ago.

It is unlikely that the Scotland Yard team had time to provide any impetus the inquiry may have lacked.

However, their role in reviewing an ongoing major investigation would have certainly included the suggestion that all key witnesses should be re-interviewed in case their stories did not match or they had remembered more detail.

Whatever happened to the running of the inquiry, at 3.40pm on Friday two plain-clothed detectives arrived in an unmarked car outside the chalet bungalow home in Soham of Mr Huntley and Miss Carr.

The three-bedroom, yellow-brick property is right next to Mr Huntley's place of work, Soham Village College.

The local comprehensive has been the base for the world's media since the two girls went missing. It was where just hours earlier, Holly and Jessica's distraught parents had made a fresh appeal for their safe return.

Ten minutes later two more detectives arrived at the bungalow, immediately joined their colleagues inside and moments later emerged with the couple, both casually dressed in blue Tshirts. They were driven away at speed in separate CID cars.

Mr Huntley, 28, who claimed to be one of the last people to speak to Holly and Jessica before they vanished on Sunday, August 4, was taken to Peterborough police station.

Miss Carr, who until the end of last term worked as a teaching assistant at nearby St Andrew's Primary School where Holly and Jessica were pupils, was driven to Ely police station.

At the beginning of the inquiry, Mr Huntley had told police the two girls had walked past his house at 5.45pm on the Sunday as he was washing his alsatian dog Sadie.

On more than one occasion he told reporters: 'I must have been one of the last people to see them alive. …

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