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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 21:19 GMT 22:19 UK
Appeal to missing girls' abductor
Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman
The girls disappeared on Sunday
Detectives have urged anyone holding missing friends Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells against their will to come forward.

Detective Superintendent David Beck said that as time went on, it was increasingly likely that the pair were being held against their will.

Get in touch with somebody so that we can all get the girls home safely

Detective Superintendent David Beck
But the officer was still confident that the pair, who went missing four days ago in Soham, in Cambridgeshire, were "alive and well".

The appeal came after police released CCTV pictures of the girls as they walked through a sports centre car park on Sunday at about 1820 BST.

Four potential witnesses seen in the footage were traced by police, but detectives said they had offered no further lines of inquiry.

'Come forward'

DS Beck said that if someone had taken the girls, they might not know want to do next.

"If the children are still with you or you know where they are, then I would encourage you to contact a solicitor or someone else you can rely on," he said

Rescue team from Northampton join search
A lake near the girls' home is searched
"Try to see beyond the next few hours. Keep in mind your future and the next few days and weeks.

"Get in touch with somebody so that we can all get the girls home safely".

He insisted they had no direct evidence to indicate Holly and Jessica were being held against their will.

It has now emerged that the headmaster at the girls' school wrote to all parents about two months ago warning them to be extra vigilant after two strangers - a man and a woman - approached a child at the playgroup next door.

Witnesses respond

There were a flood of telephone calls to the police following the appeal on Thursday but detectives are asking for further help.

A motorcyclist and the owner of a white van also seen in the sports centre car park have not yet made contact.

CCTV still
The two girls were seen on film
DS David Hankins, who is leading the investigation, said two men and two women had come forward but could only offer limited information.

"They are perfectly innocent members of the public who were engaging in some sporting activity. They walked past them [the girls].

"They didn't engage in conversation. The two children were happy and healthy."

Police had asked the four adults seen on film in the Ross Peers sports centre car park at 1817 BST, to come forward.

Staff at the sports centre told BBC News Online Holly and Jessica had come in to buy sweets at a vending machine.

Open in new window : Holly and Jessica
Maps showing focus of the investigation

Other sightings

A school caretaker, who spoke to the girls at 1745 BST, said they seemed happy.

Ian Huntley, 28, site manager at Soham Village College Secondary School, said: "They haven't run away. They didn't have a care in the world."

The police also revealed more unconfirmed sightings of the girls, which suggest they were last seen walking southbound on a main road out of the village.

They said that telephone checks had shown that a computer at Holly's home was "accessed" for 24 minutes shortly after 1700 BST on Sunday.

Officers are examining computers from the girls' homes.

They said the girls were seen walking up the main street towards the town centre at about 1830 BST and then at the town's war memorial.

And there is another unconfirmed sighting of the pair walking towards a roundabout near a petrol station on the southern edge of Soham at about 1900 BST on Sunday.

Express Newspapers has offered a 1m reward for information, and businessmen and other newspapers have offered rewards totalling more than 200,000.

About 250 officers from five different police forces are searching the Soham area for any clues.

Tests are being carried out on a white van seized from a caravan park in Wentworth, about 10 miles away from Soham, after reports a vehicle was cruising the area on Sunday.

  • Both girls, who were wearing Manchester United shirts, are white, about 4ft 6in tall and slim.

    Jessica is tanned and has shoulder-length brown hair while Holly is fair and has blonde hair.

    Anyone with information should call police on 01480 422982.

    The BBC's Ben McCarthy
    "Both girls had been taught about the dangers of talking to strangers"
    The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
    "This has now become one of the biggest missing person operations ever mounted in Britain"
    Detective Chief Inspector David Beck
    "Get in touch with somebody so that we can get the girls home safely"





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    07 Aug 02 | UK
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