20th August 2002, 19:17
Join Date: Jun 2002
Ian Huntley sectioned under Mental Health Act
School caretaker charged with girls' murder
By Gideon Long
HUNTINGDON (Reuters) - A school caretaker has been charged with the murder of two 10-year-old girls in a case that has shocked the country and prompted calls to bring back the death penalty.
Ian Huntley, 28, who lived in the same town as Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, was arrested on Saturday morning with his 25-year-old girlfriend Maxine Carr.
On Tuesday, Huntley was transferred to a secure unit under mental health legislation before being charged.
"Detectives from the force have driven to the secure unit and have charged Ian Huntley with two counts of murder," Andy Hebb of Cambridgeshire police told reporters.
"The 25-year-old woman who was also arrested on Saturday in connection with the murder of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells remains in police custody this evening and questioning continues," Hebb added.
Police face a 6 a.m. deadline to either charge or release Carr.
Hebb said Huntley's case would be heard on Wednesday, but did not know whether the caretaker would appear in court.
ONE OF UK'S BIGGEST MANHUNTS
Holly and Jessica vanished from the rural town of Soham in Cambridgeshire, eastern England, on August 4, prompting one of the nation's missing persons hunts.
More than 400 police officers have been involved in the case, which has sparked intense media coverage in Britain and abroad.
The girls' bodies were found in remote woodland on Saturday, plunging Soham into a state of collective grief.
Mourners lit a thousand candles at St Andrew's Church in Soham, which has become a shrine to the girls, with a mass of floral tributes, notes and teddy bears left outside.
On Monday a book of condolence was opened at the church with a website (www.cambs.police.uk/camops/major_incidents/) available for people unable to visit the town themselves.
Police said 4,000 messages were left on the site in the first six hours alone. Authorities were "overwhelmed with messages of support from across the world," a police spokesman said.
In the UK, a poll in one newspaper said more than half of Britons want the death penalty brought back to punish child murderers, while another printed letters from readers calling on the government to allow a vote on capital punishment.
The right-leaning Daily Mail newspaper published an opinion poll conducted in the wake of the murders, in which 56 percent of Britons wanted the death penalty brought back.
"Capital punishment is the only suitable deterrent and the only solution for monsters who abduct and kill children," one man wrote in a letter published in The Sun.
Britain abolished capital punishment about four decades ago. The last people executed in the country were two men hanged in 1964 for murder.
Prime Minister Tony Blair -- said to be "very distressed" by the case -- is, like his Labour government, opposed to capital punishment. A spokesman for Blair's office told Reuters there was no prospect of that position changing.
Parliament last voted on the death penalty in 1994. It was rejected by an overwhelming majority.