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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Beckham's plea to missing girls
Holly Wells's parents
Holly's parents have had their "worst night yet"
Football hero David Beckham has issued a personal plea for missing 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman to "go home".

The England and Manchester United star made his appeal after police said they believed the schoolfriends had been seen "in good spirits" the morning after they left their homes.

David Beckham is their favourite player
David Beckham is the girls' favourite player
The officer leading the search said girls matching their description were walking along the A10 towards Cambridge at 0645 BST on Monday, giving new hope to the hunt.

Detective Superintendent David Hankins said he was "confident" it was Holly and Jessica because the children were dressed in distinctive Manchester United tops with Beckham's name on the back.

The England captain said in a statement issued jointly with his Manchester United team mates: "Please go home. You are not in any kind of trouble.

"Your parents love you deeply and want you back."

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

Mr Hankins said police were "greatly appreciative" of Beckham's gesture.

"We appreciate him giving his time greatly as do the parents of Holly and Jessica, I have no doubt.

"David Beckham and Manchester United have a tremendously high profile and an appeal from them may well have more impact with Jessica and Holly or with any of their friends."

Holly Wells
The girls had been playing at Holly Wells's house

Mr Hankins also revealed that two detectives who led the hunt for murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne would assist with Wednesday's search.

The woman who saw the girls said they had looked dry and clean and that she would have "made a grab for them" had she known they were missing.

Holly's father Kevin, 38, told a news conference that the families, from Soham in Cambridgeshire, had their worst night yet, with friends "searching in ditches and rivers, looking for shallow graves for our children".

Mr Hankins said a woman living near the A10 in Little Thetford came forward after hearing an appeal, to say she had seen the girls. He said: "We are particularly reassured with this piece of information as both girls appeared to be happy and were described by the lady as 'larking about'."

The woman, mother-of-three Tina-Marie Easey, 39, said: "I didn't see any reason to worry about them. They seemed quite happy.

"I didn't get a close-up look at them, but I have seen photographs now and certainly the fairer one looked very much like Holly."

Mobile phone

Mr Hankins said the road would have been busy with commuters at the time, although there had been no further strong sightings.

All I can possibly think is somebody must have got them and taken them somewhere

Holly's gran - Diane Westley
But police are also speaking to Mrs Easey's neighbour, who saw two girls in red tops walking in the direction of Ely at about 1500 BST on Monday.

Mr Hankins appealed for drivers who may have seen the girls to come forward and for landowners to check outbuildings where they could have sheltered from overnight rain.

Police confirmed that they are also examining Holly and Jessica's computers, to see if they have been in touch with strangers over the internet.

They have also been checking the whereabouts of known sex offenders.

Jessica had a mobile phone with her and although it is now dead engineers have traced its last call to an area surrounding Soham.

'Out of character'

Describing his family's wait for news, Mr Wells said they were desperate for "any snippet that could lead to any successful find for Holly and Jessica".

Jessica Chapman and her dog Toby
Jessica Chapman and her dog Toby
He said the level of public support had been "overwhelming" and thanked those who had joined police searches.

But Holly's mother, Nicola, 35, said neither girl had a reason to leave home and added: "It's just very out of character for them and they are just so sensible. I just can't understand it at all."

Earlier Holly's grandmother, Diane Westley, 60, said she feared they may have been abducted.

Speaking outside the girls' school she said: "All I can possibly think is somebody must have got them and taken them somewhere."

It is thought Holly and Jessica were on their way to buy sweets when they went missing.

Hundreds of people have joined the search
The last confirmed sighting of the girls was in Sand Street, Soham, at 1830BST on Sunday.

Both girls are described as being white, about 4ft 6in tall and slim. Jessica is tanned and has shoulder-length brown hair while Holly is fair and has blonde hair.

Police have issued a dedicated telephone hotline for the public to call if anyone has any information about the two girls - 01480 422982.

The BBC's Ben McCarthy
"The searching around the girls home town goes on"
Holly Wells' grandmother Diane Westley
"All I can think is that someone has picked them up and taken them"





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12 Dec 01 | UK
06 Aug 02 | UK
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