Soham trial: Parents in court

By Dave Gooderhamat the Old BaileyIT was the day the long-suffering families of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had waited for - and yet, had equally dreaded.

By Dave Gooderham

at the Old Bailey

IT was the day the long-suffering families of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had waited for - and yet, had equally dreaded.

Since the tragic disappearance of the two young, bright and pretty close friends, the parents - Kevin and Nicola Wells and Sharon and Leslie Chapman - had always acted with dignity in the face of unimaginable grief.

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That continued throughout yesterday's court proceedings at the Old Bailey in London - the first day of evidence as Richard Latham, QC, outlined the prosecution case for the Crown.

No-one in or out of the court could even start to contemplate what the Wells and Chapman families have gone through during the past year.

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But they kept their grief private in the precinct of the famous court as the heart-rending last steps of Holly and Jessica were outlined.

At the start of one of the most high-profile murder trials in recent history, occasionally one of the parents bowed their heads, sombrely reflecting on what was said - but they refused to allow their sadness to show.

Mr and Mrs Wells were, unusually, sitting behind the press, while just yards from Mr and Mrs Chapman was Ian Huntley, the man accused of murdering the two girls.

Huntley, dressed in a plain white shirt and dark trousers, and co-defendant Maxine Carr, in a plain grey suit, sat almost motionless throughout as the prosecution used visual aids to describe the hours leading up to the girls' disappearance.

At one stage Huntley leaned forward to talk to his defence and the bulk of the public gallery looked on in interest.

Inside the famous old Court One, members of the public clasped their hands over their faces as the haunting last image of Holly and Jessica - a photo taken little more than an hour before they disappeared - was shown on big screens. The Chapmans appeared to look away as the poignant photo moved everyone in the court.

The case has transfixed and horrified the entire nation and almost 100 reporters from the world of television, newspapers and radio had congregated inside the court.

Outside the Old Bailey, as the capital hummed with the everyday noise and activity, a crowd of photographers had gathered, their flash bulbs continually illuminating the court entrance.

A disused court had also been specially set up to cope with the huge media interest after what the prosecution described as one of the largest missing persons' appeal seen in this country.

As the start of the trial grew closer, the waiting area was awash with speculation and rumour. Then at 10.50am, 20 minutes later than planned, the noise was replaced by an eerie hush as the three-month trial started.

The jury of seven women and five men were told the prosecution's case would unravel like a jigsaw puzzle.

As Mr Latham discussed the intricacies and importance of vital mobile phone calls made between the two defendants, the parents remained focused, listening intently to every word that was said.

The heart-breaking closed circuit television footage showing the girls' last-known steps was also played as the prosecution made reference to them wearing two Manchester United shirts with the name of their favourite player on the back - David Beckham.

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