It was a case that horrified and shocked Britain. And it came to court yesterday with the man charged with the double child murder of two school girls allegedly helping the police search for them only did so as to find out what the police knew. The trial of Huntley, a school caretaker, began yesterday. He denies the charges but has pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

Ian Huntley loitered around police investigating the disappearance of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, trying to discover what they knew, his murder trial heard today.

Richard Latham QC, prosecuting, said Huntley had first been seen “hanging around” near the police rendezvous point.

And he next tried to watch the police as they viewed CCTV footage which might show the girls, the lawyer told the Old Bailey jury. “We suggest again that in the same way he had been hanging around near the police car trying to hear what was going on at the rendezvous point earlier that morning, he was in that foyer interested to know if the police could see anything on the CCTV.”

The jury heard that police were viewing the CCTV footage at the Ross Peers Sports Centre in the early hours of Monday August 5 last year, less than 12 hours after the girls disappeared.

Mr Latham began opening the case against the former school caretaker and his former girlfriend yesterday.

Maxine Carr, 26, a former classroom assistant at the girls’ primary school in Soham, Cambridgeshire, denies one charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and two charges of assisting an offender.

Mr Latham said the reality was that the piece of film looked at had not yet been identified. “Police at that stage did not know whether the girls could be seen on the CCTV tapes.”

Turning to the Monday morning – the day after the girls disappeared – Mr Latham described a phone call made at 6.56am. Huntley’s mobile had rung Maxine Carr’s mother, he said.

He said: “The call lasted just under five minutes. You may think a lot was said in five minutes. We suggest that call is a very important call.”

Mr Latham said that, when interviewed, Carr said Huntley had rung her and told her that he had been out with the police searching for the girls all night.

“She described him as being in absolute tears as he was the last person to have spoken to them.”

Carr allegedly said Huntley told her: “I am going to get fitted up like I did before.”

She thought it was between 8am and 9am but it was obviously earlier than that, Mr Latham told the court. He said he wanted to come back to that call in due course.

“The potential significance of it will become much more apparent.”

Mr Latham then moved on to a discussion of Huntley’s car, which he said, if proved, would be a “most important aspect of the prosecution case”.

He said the red five–door Ford Fiesta had first been bought by a different owner in 1990.

“There were factory–fitted carpets both inside the car and inside the boot,” he told the court.

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