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EDITIONS
Monday, 19 August, 2002, 04:22 GMT 05:22 UK
Agony of Holly and Jessica's parents
(From left) Kevin and Nicola Wells, Sharon and Leslie Chapman
The families made a series of public appeals
The parents of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman have spoken of the agony of losing their "gorgeous" daughters.

Police say that they are as certain as they can be that the bodies discovered in Lakenheath in Suffolk are those of the 10-year-old girls who went missing in Soham, Cambridgeshire, two weeks ago.

Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells
Jessica and Holly went missing on 4 August

Acting Deputy Chief Constable Keith Hoddy read out a prepared statement on behalf of both sets of parents on Sunday evening.

In it, Nicola and Kevin Wells said: "Although still numb after losing our gorgeous daughter Holly, please accept our heartfelt thanks for everyone's help and support throughout this traumatic fortnight."

Both families asked for their privacy to be respected and police said it may be days before the girls' bodies are formally identified.

Sharon and Leslie Chapman added: "We would like to thank everybody for their kindness and support during this very tense and traumatic time, especially family, friends and the family liaison officers."

On Sunday evening, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, sent words of sympathy to the parents.

"At times like these there is nothing we can say that can stem the waves of grief, regret and reproach.

"Our first duty is to express our love and our deep, deep sympathy to Holly and Jessica's parents, and to watch and weep with them in these dark days."

RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk
The bodies have been moved to a Cambridge hospital

An ambulance carrying the two bodies has left the Lakenheath site for Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge where further forensic examination will be carried out.

Detectives have also been granted a 36-hour extension to continue questioning Soham college caretaker Ian Huntley, 28, and his girlfriend Maxine Carr, 25.

The pair appeared at separate closed hearings before magistrates on Sunday.

Mr Huntley is being held on suspicion of abducting and murdering Holly and Jessica.

Ms Carr, a teaching assistant in the girls' class last term, was arrested on suspicion of murdering them.

At Sunday's briefing in front of St Andrew's Church in Soham, Mr Hoddy called for a moment's silence in memory of the two girls.

He said: "Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to Holly's parents and brother and Jessica's parents and sisters at this ghastly time.

"An enormous effort involving hundreds of police officers, civilians and scores of experts worked tirelessly to trace the girls and the sense of sorrow is now felt acutely."

He went on, "Now is a time for quiet contemplation. It's a time to respect the grief of Holly and Jessica's families."

Earlier on Sunday hundreds of grief-stricken local residents had gathered at St Andrew's for a special service.

Reverend Tim Alban Jones, vicar of Soham, who has helped comfort the girls' families, said the whole of Soham felt "violated" by the events.

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

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

Throughout Sunday dozens of bouquets and personal tributes have been left at the church.

Murder suspects Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr, gave voluntary statements to the police on Friday before they were arrested a few hours later at 0400 BST on Saturday.

Police search teams have now spent two days searching the couple's house, the girls' primary school, St Andrew's and the secondary school Soham Village College, which are all on the same site.

Officers found "items of major interest" at the college.

The home of Mr Huntley's father Kevin, in Littleport, which is about 10 miles from Soham, is also being searched.

And on Sunday afternoon the car wash at Q8 petrol station, south of Soham, was also cordoned off by police.

  • The BBC, ITN and Sky News have agreed to leave Soham in response to a request from the police and the families. A spokesman for the BBC said that the corporation wished to thank the people of the town for their assistance and forebearance at this difficult time.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Samantha Simmonds
    "The grief and shock in Soham are profound"

    Click here to go to Cambridgeshire


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