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EDITIONS
Monday, 26 August, 2002, 00:39 GMT 01:39 UK
Vicar asks for Soham to grieve in private
Jessica Chapman (left) and Holly Wells
Scores have paid tribute to Holly and Jessica
The vicar of the church which became a focal point for grief for Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman has asked for their community to be left to grieve in peace.

The Reverend Tim Alban Jones of St Andrew's Church said the people of Soham were "very grateful" for the public support and sympathy shown to them.

"But it's time for us to have some time and space now to be alone and to heal and to grieve in private," he said.

Floral tributes to Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman at St Andrew's Church, Soham
St Andrew's churchyard has turned into a sea of flowers
The media has withdrawn from the town, returning only by invitation.

But members of the public continue to pour into Soham by the score.

On Sunday some coach parties even made detours to the church to view the thousands of flowers, candles and messages for the murdered 10-year-olds.

Meanwhile, one of five books of condolence dedicated to the murdered schoolgirls at Birmingham Cathedral has been stolen.

Mr Alban Jones said: "How entirely inexplicable that anyone would want to have one of the books when the only appropriate place for them is with the families of the girls."

Press coverage

The Attorney General has been asked to consider whether the press should face charges of contempt of court over the coverage of the case.

Reverend Tim Alban Jones of St Andrew's Church, Soham
Tim Alban Jones is baffled by the theft of a condolence book
It has been reported that some newspaper articles about the two people charged in connection with the girls' murders could make it difficult for them to be given a fair trial.

Roy Greenslade, media analyst and former editor of the Mirror, told BBC News: "What they're attempting to do by presenting this couple in as negative a light as possible, is to convict them even before a trial.

"And I would say that they have acted reprehensibly over this case."

Police said on Sunday they had found items of clothing believed to have been worn by Holly and Jessica.

They would not confirm where or when the items were found, or what they were.

On the day they went missing, the girls were both wearing replicas of the distinctive football shirt of their Manchester United hero David Beckham.

School hopes

The girls' bodies were found last Saturday, almost two weeks after they went missing from the Cambridgeshire town.

Caretaker Ian Huntley, 28
Caretaker Ian Huntley, 28, is charged with murder
St Andrew's School, which the girls attended, and the nearby secondary school Soham Village Collage remain closed while the police search for evidence continues.

Education officials are preparing contingency plans, such as the use of mobile classrooms, in case pupils cannot return there in September.

But head Geoff Fisher said he was keen it should be "business as usual as far as possible" when term starts again.

"There will be a thoughtful, reflective atmosphere in the school, but also a sense of moving on, of looking to the future and the challenges ahead.

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

"This is exactly what Holly and Jessica were doing themselves last term, and what I know they would be doing again if they were returning to school," he said.

Former school caretaker Ian Huntley, 28, is being held at Rampton secure hospital accused of murdering Holly and Jessica.

Mr Huntley's girlfriend, Maxine Carr, 25, is on remand in Holloway prison accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The police investigation is continuing, with several other sites as well as the school still being checked.


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