Huntley: Life for murdering girls
Huntley (right) had denied murdering the two girls. Carr had denied three charges against her.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A school caretaker convicted of murdering 10-year-old British schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman has been given two life sentences.
Ian Huntley's former girlfriend Maxine Carr was found guilty in the Soham trial at London's Old Bailey of perverting the course of justice but not guilty of two charges of assisting an offender.
Carr was sentenced to three and a half years' jail but has already served half that time in custody. She could be released in just 30 days' time under an electronic tagging scheme that frees well-behaved, non-dangerous inmates up to 135 days early.
Huntley is expected to serve at least 20 years.
The judge, Judge Alan Moses, said Huntley, 29, had shown "persistent cruelty" and "merciless cynicism."
"You murdered them both, you were the only person who knows how you murdered them," he told Huntley. "Your tears have never been for them, only for yourself.
"In your lies and manipulation up to this very day you have increased the suffering you have caused the two families."
Addressing Maxine Carr, 26, he said: "You had plenty of opportunity to refuse to persist in a course of lying and deception. You chose not to.
"If you had the slightest true regard for those girls or families you would have told the truth."
All the guilty verdicts were reached Wednesday by a majority of 11-1 by the jury within an hour of the judge telling them he would accept majority decisions after four days of deliberations failed to bring unanimous verdicts.
Huntley had denied murdering Wells and Chapman in Soham, in the eastern English county of Cambridgeshire, but had pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
The disappearance of the two girls received world media coverage.
Huntley's ex-girlfriend Carr, a former classroom assistant at the school where the girls were pupils, had denied one charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and two charges of assisting an offender.
After the verdicts were handed down on Wednesday, it was revealed that Huntley was a sexual predator obsessed with young girls. (Full story)
Questions were asked as to why the 29-year-old was able to outwit vetting procedures and get a job as a school caretaker at Soham.
An independent inquiry into how Huntley got a job as a school caretaker was announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett. There were "real concerns" about the way police handled intelligence on Huntley's past, he said.
The disappearance and deaths of the 10-year-old British schoolgirls in their distinctive red Manchester United shirts last year made headlines and pictujres around the world.
The girls were discovered missing on August 4, 2002, after leaving a family barbecue at Holly's house to go for a stroll in their hometown.
After a two-week search, the girls' bodies were found side-by-side in a remote drainage ditch 15 miles from Soham.
During the trial, the prosecution argued that Huntley was guilty of murdering the two girls and said he had done so because "sexual moves towards them had gone badly wrong".
Huntley said he killed the girls accidentally after inviting them in to his house so he could help Holly stop a nosebleed.
In what he called a "ghastly accident," Huntley said Holly fell into his partially-filled bath and drowned and Jessica died when he held her mouth to stop her screaming.
Huntley told the jury he disposed of the girls' bodies and tried to set them alight. He cut off their clothes and burned them. Maintaining the deaths were accidental, he apologized for what happened.
Carr, a teacher's assistant who had taught both girls, denied the charges, telling the jury she lied to protect her then fiancÚ, giving him a false alibi, but insisted she never suspected he could be involved in the girls' disappearance.
According to the prosecution's evidence, fibers from the girls' Manchester United shirts had been found on Huntley's clothes and on the carpets in his house.
-- CNN correspondent Diana Muriel in Soham England contributed to this report