In the Media

Parents of Holly Wells finally able to move back into home where murdered schoolgirl grew up

PUBLISHED July 22, 2012

The father of murdered Soham schoolgirl Holly Wells has described how he and his wife have slowly "made it to the other side", learning to live with their grief and even planning to move back into their family home.

Kevin Wells disclosed that the murder of his ten-year-old daughter and her friend Jessica Chapman by their school care taker, Ian Huntley, had tested his marriage to the limit.

But he said that from the moment he visited the shallow grave in which the girls' burnt bodies were discarded in August 2002, he vowed not to let their killer destroy them.

"Murder has the capacity to destroy more lives than the one taken," he said in an interview to mark the tenth anniversary of the girls' deaths. "I recognised that from the start, so I tried to take control, to make plans and to exert positive thought.

"I clung to my family, my community, my work, sometimes to God and sometimes to a late-night tumbler of whisky. I chose to believe in the future, a future that I could craft from the life we once had. Really, all I wanted was for us to be the ones who'd make it out the other side."

Having moved out of the house in Soham, Cambridgeshire, in which their daughter was raised in 2006, the family is now preparing to move back in.

Mr Wells described how he and his wife of 30 years, Nicola, had struggled financially after having to sell his business at a loss, how their physical relationship had suffered and how they grew distant as their coped with their grief in different ways.

But the strength of their marriage and their shared determination to help their son, Oliver, who was 12 when Holly was killed, kept them united.

"They say 95 per cent of the parents of murdered children split up," Mr Wells told the Mail on Sunday. "We were determined to be among the five per cent who survive but for a year, perhaps 18 months, I couldn't reach my wife."

The couple had to remortgage their house and accept £6,000 from a charity to pay their bills. But gradually, they began to get back on track. Mr Wells started his contract cleaning business from scratch in 2005 and was subsequently joined by Oliver, then 16. For two years, the pair "went up ladders and chit-chatted about life until it felt OK again".

"Getting back to work was not just about money in the bank, it was also about what it represented - an everyday life, a familiar pattern, some kind of control," he said.

They discussed adoption or fostering but eventually decided against it.

Mr Wells devoted months to the Bichard Inquiry into Britain's child-protection procedures and has become patron of Grief Encounters, a charity that supports bereaved children.

Huntley's name is not mentioned in the family home. Ten years on, he still refuses to tell the truth about what happened.

Next month, the Wells family will be unable to prevent themselves from once again wondering about the young woman Holly would have become.

"I will never walk a daughter down the aisle, never see her off to another life, she will remain as she was a decade ago," Mr Wells said. "We think about the things she'll never know, sitting her driving test, attending her school prom, her 21st birthday, it's a lifetime of loss."

His wife, Nicola, said she missed "the busyness" of her daughter. "The music and dancing and drawing, the reading, the homework, the friends, the Brownies, the Majorettes," she said. "I used to grind my teeth at the hours I spent driving her to activities. Now I long to be able to do it."

As they approach the milestone anniversary, Mr Wells noted: "Time doesn't heal, someone got that wrong. It anaesthetises. Grief does not diminish, but you can manage the intensity and learn to live with it."