On the 4th August 2002 at 2030 two children, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman – both aged 10 were reported as missing from their home in Soham, Cambridgeshire. Police are informed and on the 5th August at dawn the search resumes with Police and a helicopter with thermal imaging. At 0900 Police issue a public appeal.
Following appeals in the media and searching by local people the disappearance is reported nationwide and IRC Eastern Region offers assistance via the Police HQ in Huntingdon and also through PoLSA.
A six person team was mobilised –
- Paul Wooster
- Mark Wilson-North
- Dave Willimott
- Ginny Wilson-North
- Rachel Oliver
- Stephen Barnett
They took with them a Thermal Image Camera, dry suits and life jackets.
The team arrives at 2130 and, after a briefing at the mobile incident room the team were tasked with a search of 3km of road side and ditches on the A10 at Little Thetford where there had been an earlier sighting of the girls. By this time all public searchers had been sent home and only the Police and IRC were to search during the night. The team searched for 3 hours along with 2 police officers as our local guides.
The team then located to Ely Police station at 0100 where the incident room had been relocated.
After a de-brief they were sent to search approx 4 sq km of marsh, ditches and fields adjacent to Soham near to the girls’ homes. By now it was raining and some of the conditions were on difficult terrain. The team concentrated on track searching, that is footpaths, dykes, ditches and hedgerows to approximately 2 metres each side, detailed sweep searches were to be done in the daylight.
At 0530 the team reported back and were told to get some rest and report back in again after a Police brief at 1000. The team was put up by a Travel Lodge in Ely as a donation to the Corps.
After this break the team returned to Soham. At this point it was clear that the investigation was taking a different tack and IRC were put on hold awaiting instructions from a new investigation team that was setting up a major incident room. At 1300 the team were stood down and thanked for its efforts.