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Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Prayers for Holly and Jessica
Hundreds gathered for the service
Hundreds gathered for the service
Prayers have been offered for the families of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman at an emotional church service in their home town of Soham.

The parents of the 10-year-olds are being comforted by friends and family after police told them on Sunday evening that they were as certain as they could be at present that two two bodies found on Saturday are those of their missing daughters.

St Andrew's Church, Soham
Flowers have been left at the church

Hundreds joined in the service at St Andrew's Church, two weeks to the day that Holly and Jessica vanished from the Cambridgeshire town.

Home Office pathologist Dr Nat Cary is continuing his examination of the bodies which were found at a remote woodland spot near RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

Detectives are continuing to question Soham Village College caretaker Ian Huntley, 28, and his girlfriend Maxine Carr, 25, at separate police stations.

Mr Huntley is being held on suspicion of abducting and murdering the girls, while Ms Carr, a teaching assistant in the girls' class last term, was arrested on suspicion of murdering them.

The Reverend Tim Alban Jones, vicar of Soham, said the sermon had been one of the most difficult he had ever written.

Mr Jones, who helped comfort the girls' parents on Saturday, told the packed congregation it looked as though their worst fears had now been realised.

Death swoops down like a bat, And swoops down on a loved one, But it's not the end of that, Their soul still lives on.

Poem by Siobhan Piggott, 10, left at the church
"Throughout this devastating fortnight we have had the image of Holly and Jessica etched on our minds.

"Pictures of their happy, smiling faces have been displayed in just about every window in town.

"These two lovely girls have been the first thoughts in our minds in the morning and the last thought in the night.

"As we are thinking of these two delightful girls we have been constantly aware of the searing heartrending agony that the parents have been going through."

He said the local community had been in a state of shock since the girls disappeared and many tears had been shed.

"Sadly in Soham we have an appalling example of the depravity that human hearts can sink to," he continued.

A woman attending the service breaks down in tears
Many residents were overcome with emotion
But they had also seen the dignity and courage of the girls' parents and "an outpouring of collective support and concern" from the community.

Hazel Jackson, 20, said she knew Jessica and described her as a "gorgeous little girl and full of life".

"They were both such good children. It was a beautiful service and it was really good to see everyone in the village out because it had been so quiet - no children."

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Hebb, who is leading the investigations, also came to the church to pay his respects.

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

Police have until Wednesday morning to charge or release Mr Huntley and his girlfriend.

RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk
Forensic tests: Scene of bodies find sealed
The pair originally gave voluntary statements to the police on Friday during seven hours of questioning.

They were arrested a few hours later at 0400 BST on Saturday.

Their house, in the grounds of the girls' primary school, St Andrew's, is being painstakingly examined by a police search team, along with the school and Soham Village College on the same site.

Officers have already found "items of major interest" at the college - the town's secondary school - though police would not say what they were.

Mr Huntley was one of the last people to have seen Holly and Jessica on the day they went missing.

He told police they had walked past his house as he was washing his dog, and has said on more than one occasion: "I must have been one of the last people to see them alive."

The home of Mr Huntley's father Kevin, in Littleport, which is about 10 miles from Soham, has also been searched by the police.

And on Sunday the Q8 petrol station, south of Soham, was cordoned off where there was a reported sighting of the girls on the evening they disappeared.

The BBC's Clarence Mitchell
"All were welcome at St Andrew's Church"
Reverend Tim Alban Jones, vicar of Soham
"We still can't believe that it's happened"

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