Soham - 'Huntley and the schoolgirl'

SOHAM accused Ian Huntley was the focus of a schoolgirl crush just weeks before he allegedly murdered Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, his Old Bailey trial heard.

SOHAM accused Ian Huntley was the focus of a schoolgirl crush just weeks before he allegedly murdered Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, his Old Bailey trial heard.

A youngster got "too close" to the then caretaker at Soham Village College and had to be spoken to by the vice principal.

The court heard that Huntley's predecessor was sacked the year before, following an "inappropriate relationship' with a 13-year-old girl.

As a result all applicants for the vacant post, including Huntley, were grilled on what they would do if a girl at the school was attracted to them.

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Huntley's barrister Stephen Coward QC, cross-examining the college's vice principal Margaret Bryden, said: "Because of previous history, there were concerns.

"Therefore, all applicants were asked tricky questions.'

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He said Huntley had answered in an "exemplary fashion' and Mrs Bryden agreed.

Huntley said that should such a situation arise, he would report it to a senior member of staff.

Mr Coward said: "In actual fact, it happened, did it not? It happened in July. It was reported to you and dealt with by you.'

Mrs Bryden said: "It was not only reported to me but reported to the principal as well. I dealt with it with the girl in question.'

Mrs Bryden also said that Huntley had "confided' in her about his father.

Cross-examining her, Maxine Carr's barrister Michael Hubbard QC said: "He made some pretty shocking and outrageous allegations about his father, did he not?

"He made some pretty shocking allegations about what had happened to him in his early life. Did it ever occur to you that he lived in a world of his own fantasy?

"Did you ever think he was making things up?'

Mrs Bryden said: "There were times I thought he was exaggerating things but did not think he was making them up.'

Huntley applied for the job of site manager under the name Ian Nixon and was interviewed on November 9, the court heard.

Mrs Bryden said that during interviews all candidates were asked to imagine that a girl on the college premises had become attracted to them, and to say what action they would take.

She said: "Huntley gave a very, very specific reply that he would be reporting it to myself as his line manager or to the principal if anything was untoward.'

Asked what she had thought of Huntley as a candidate, she said: "I was delighted. Here we had a very sensible approach to it, someone who was going to marry, whose fiancee was there, and a very level-headed person.'

Huntley was offered the job, "pending police protection checks for child protection'.

He and Carr moved into a cottage on the site and Mrs Bryden said she was aware of rows between the couple, especially towards the end of the summer of 2002, and Huntley would become "sullen'.

She said: "There were occasions he would refer to having an argument with Maxine. It was more in the form of shouting or throwing things at each other.'

Asked about the nature of the relationship, she said: "He would make reference at times to a relationship whereby Miss Carr was telling him what to do.'

After the girls vanished, Mrs Bryden said that Huntley told her several times he was the last person to see them alive.

He telephoned her on August 13 - the day police feared they might have found the girls' bodies in shallow graves in Warren Hill, near Newmarket.

The "graves' were later found to be badger setts but Mrs Bryden said she and Huntley had discussed the possibility that the girls could be dead.

"He told me that he had been to his GP and he had been given medication and was being treated for depression and high blood pressure,' she said.

"He told me he was the last person to see them alive.'

In a previous phone call on August 8 - four days after the girls disappeared - Huntley complained he was "being hounded by the press and police and he needed to go away for the weekend', she said.

Earlier, the court heard that Huntley had a secret "quiet area' where he went plane-spotting at Lakenheath - near the remote ditch where his alleged victims were found.

Huntley told of a place near the US airbase that he was not supposed to go to, where "no-one ever goes', the court heard.

He told salesman Benjamin Hickling, who was also interested in planes, about the spot when Mr Hickling visited the college in March last year, five months before the girls died.

Huntley's assistant caretaker Jonathan Butler, 18, told the court that Huntley had told him on Saturday August 3 - the day before the girls vanished - that Carr was going to Grimsby.

The couple were later to claim she had been with him in Soham that weekend.

Huntley, 29, denies murdering the two girls but has admitted conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

Carr, 26, a former classroom assistant at the girls' primary school in Soham, denies conspiring to pervert the course of justice and two charges of assisting an offender.

Mr Butler also revealed that Huntley's red Ford Fiesta had smelt strongly of "body filler' in the days after the girls' disappearance.

Three witnesses claimed to have seen Huntley on the night the girls went missing, at about 10.30pm.

Mark Abbott, Wayne Short and Jonathan Watkins said they met the caretaker outside the Ross Peers sport centre and that he denied having seen the girls.

Stephen Coward QC, for Huntley, pointed to discrepancies in their different statements to police and questioned whether they had embellished their version of events.

Mr Coward asked Mr Watkins: "Following the arrest of Mr Huntley, he became public enemy No 1 and you felt under pressure to try to help a bit more, is that fair?' Mr Watkins replied: "No.'

The trial was adjourned until today.

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