Blunkett orders inquiry on Huntley job

An independent inquiry into how Ian Huntley got a job as a school caretaker was announced today by Home Secretary David Blunkett.

There were "real concerns" about the way police handled intelligence on Huntley's past, he said.

"Shocking and horrific"

"This has been a shocking and horrific case and my thoughts are with Holly and Jessica's families," said Mr Blunkett.

"I cannot begin to imagine the pain they must have endured during this dark time.

"I hope they will find some comfort in seeing the man responsible for this wicked act brought to justice."

Slipped through the net

Soham area MP and shadow police minister James Paice, said: "Sadly we now know how many times Huntley had been close to being convicted on previous occasions and how he slipped through the police net in Humberside.

"There are major questions to be asked about how this happened and how our own police force was unable to pick up on his past when they vetted him for his job at the school."

He added: "I welcome the inquiry and we should await its outcome. Then, if there are lessons to be learned, or failures to rectify, that should be done swiftly."

Ten police contacts with Huntley

Humberside Police said it was now in the "public interest" to reveal all the contacts they had with Huntley, who also used his mother's name of Nixon.

The chief constable of Humberside Police David Westwood said that the force's investigations into their dealings with Huntley had identified "some system failings and elements of human error".

After detailing the 10 contacts the force had had with Ian Huntley between 1995 and 1999, Mr Westwood said that each one of them had been properly investigated.

But despite the allegations of four rapes on teenagers, three claims of underage sex and an allegation of indecent assault on a 12-year-old girl the only computer entry relating to Huntley was on a burglary offence that was never taken to court.

The information had not been held on the force computer due to their "weeding policies" under the Data Protection Act.

Mr Westwood said: "We face here the contradictory nature of two public policies.

"First is the Data Protection Act which requires the removal of information relating to individuals.

"Secondly is the retaining of information to protect vulnerable people.

"There is no national guidance on this. It is urgently needed."

Checks on Huntley

Referring to checks made on Huntley when he applied for his post as school caretaker, Humberside Police said it understood from colleagues in Cambridgeshire that the vetting request received by them gave both names, namely Huntley and Nixon.

"Under the system then in operation, it was the responsibility of Cambridgeshire Police to check the Police National Computer. It appears that Cambridgeshire Police only checked the Police National Computer against the name Nixon. They would have found no trace."

Speaking at a press conference in Brough, the chief constable of Humberside Police David Westwood said it would have been "extremely helpful" if his force had been able to link the two names used by Huntley.

He said: "There was an occasion in 1999 when Huntley was interviewed by us and did indicate that he was using both names.

"We did not make a note of his alias on our records. This was a simple human error.

Intelligence managers have been briefed on this issue to prevent this from happening again."

'Became aware of history'

Cambridgeshire Police Chief Constable Tom Lloyd said that everybody would now be aware of the Home Secretary's announcement of an inquiry surrounding the vetting of Huntley for the job at Soham Village College and the history of the allegations of his behaviour in Humberside in recent years.

Mr Lloyd said: "During the course of the inquiry we became aware of that history."

He said that vetting procedures would need to be looked at and that he therefore "welcomed the inquiry".

He said that everybody should be focussing on "improving things for the future".

He said: "I very much support what the Home Secretary is saying, 'let us be looking at this and let us have an independent look at this to make sure that same mistakes are not made'."

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