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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
Girls' bodies 'dumped in ditch'
Jessica Chapman (left) and Holly Wells
The girls did not die where the bodies were found
Schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman did not die where their "severely decomposed" bodies were found, an inquest has been told.

The 10-year-olds were killed then taken to a spot near the RAF base at Lakenheath in Suffolk where their bodies were found in a ditch last Saturday, the inquest at Shire Hall in Cambridge heard.

Further analysis of the bodies to determine the cause and time of death is needed and the hearing was adjourned after half an hour.

Manchester United's David Beckham during the minute's silence
Sport's tribute: Players fall silent for Holly and Jessica

Later on Friday an impeccably observed minute's silence was held in memory of the two girls just before kick-off at the Premiership game between Chelsea and Manchester United.

It is the first of a series of similar tributes planned at sporting events over the weekend.

Players and officials, wearing black arm bands, were joined by spectators in observing the 60-second silence at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground in London.

Memorial service

Holly and Jessica were keen Man Utd fans and on the day they went missing were wearing team football tops bearing the name of David Beckham, who later led public appeals for them to return home.

Plans for a special memorial service for the girls, attended by 2,000 guests at Ely Cathedral, were also announced on Friday.

Andy Hebb and David Morris
DCI Hebb and coroner David Morris at the inquest

During the inquest opening Detective Chief Inspector Andy Hebb, who led the two-week hunt for the girls, told the court their bodies had been identified using DNA.

The coroner for south and west Cambridgeshire, David Morris, asked him: "You are as certain as you can be that the deaths of these two did not take place at the place where they were found?"

Mr Hebb replied: "That's correct sir."

Mr Morris then said: "The question of location and timing of the deaths and removal of the bodies to their final destination is still a matter of your investigation?"

Mr Hebb replied: "That's correct."

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

Mr Morris went on to severely criticise the offer of huge rewards made by some national newspapers to find the girls.

He said people from far afield had gone to the Soham area explicitly with the hope of finding the bodies and claiming the cash.

Ely Cathedral
A memorial service will be held at Ely Cathedral
Express Newspapers later defended its 1m reward during the police hunt for the two girls, saying it had been offered "with the full and prior knowledge of the police and the support of Jessica's and Holly's families".

Mr Morris went on to praise the police investigation and said he had met Jessica's parents before the hearing began.

The inquest was told they wanted their daughter to be cremated, while Holly's parents wanted their daughter to be buried. Neither of the girls' families attended the hearing itself.

It is expected that the bodies will be released for burial next Tuesday.

Remembrance

The Ely Cathedral service next week will be ticket only and those invited will include relatives, friends and Soham residents as well as those who helped in the police investigation.

Holly and Jessica's families have asked the public not to gather at the cathedral.

Caretaker Ian Huntley, 28
Caretaker Ian Huntley, 28, has been sacked
It has also emerged that Ian Huntley, the man accused of murdering Holly and Jessica, has been sacked from his job as a school caretaker.

The governors of Soham Village College met on Thursday and decided it would be "untenable" for Mr Huntley, being held in Rampton secure hospital, to return to work.

They said they hoped Mr Huntley's house could be demolished entirely once legal proceedings were completed.

Mr Huntley's girlfriend, Maxine Carr, has been remanded in custody, accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The coroner said further charges against her could not be ruled out.

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The BBC's Clarence Mitchell
"The police believe the girls were not killed where they were found"

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See also:

22 Aug 02 | Education
20 Aug 02 | Technology
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