A Timeline of Soham History

2002 AD - The Soham Murders of Holly Wells & Jessica Chapman

On the 4th August 2002, Soham became the centre of international media attention after the disappearance of two local ten-year-old schoolgirls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. Almost two weeks after they first disappeared, the girls badly decomposed bodies were eventually found 15 miles away in a remote patch of woodland close to RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.
Ian Huntley, a caretaker from Soham Village College, along with his girlfriend Maxine Carr, a teaching assistant at Holly and Jessica's school, St Andrew's Primary were arrested soon after. On 3 November 2003 at the Old Bailey in London, Huntley was put on trial for the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and Carr for assisting an offender. At the trial, Huntley pleaded guilty to manslaughter of both girls but was convicted of their murders by two, eleven-to-one majority jury verdicts on 17 December 2003.
Huntley immediately began serving two concurrent life sentences with a minimum of 40 years before parole would be considered. Carr who had provided a false alibi for Huntley to Police during the investigation was cleared by the jury on two counts of assisting an offender but convicted of perverting the course of justice. She was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and released on probation on 14 May 2004. On her release she was given a new identity under the witness protection program and granted an indefinite order by the High Court to protect her new identity and whereabouts from being publicly known.
After the convictions, the Government called for an national inquiry to be conducted. The Bichard Inquiry was formally opened on 13 January 2004 and the findings were later published in June 2004. Humberside and Cambridgeshire police forces were heavily criticised for their failings in maintaining and sharing intelligence records on Huntley. The inquiry also recommended a registration scheme for people working with children and vulnerable adults, like the elderly. It also suggested a national system should be set up for police forces to share intelligence information. The report also said there should also be a clear code of practice on record-keeping by all police forces.

2007 AD -  Brave Soham Rail Disaster Victims Remembered

The forgotten wartime heroes who gave their lives to save an entire town was recently celebrated with a commemorative artwork. On 2nd June 1944, in Soham, fire broke out on the lead wagon of a train carrying 400 tons of bombs to the East Coast in preparation for D-Day. Only the bravery of four railway workers, two of whom uncoupled the burning wagon and drove it to safety, spared the town from total devastation. Driver Ben Gimbert miraculously survived as did the Guard Herbert Clarke, but Engine Fireman Jim Nightall and Signalman Frank Bridges were killed in a huge explosion flattening Soham station and shattering windows as far away as Wicken.

Now the four heroes have been finally be commemorated, after decades of calls for a permanent tribute, in an interpretive artwork which stands next to The War Memorial in Red Lion Square. The artwork is the culmination of nine years of work by the Soham Museum, which won a £15,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant along with £10,000 in donations to fund the project. It was officially unveiled by HRH The Duke of Gloucester on Saturday 2nd June 2007 at The War Memorial along with relatives of Ben Gimbert, Jim Nightall and Frank Bridges attending. This was followed by a Street Parade to St. Andrew's Church and Service of Dedication by the Vicar of Soham, The Reverend Tim Alban Jones MBE.



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