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Tony Blair resisted calls for public inquiry after Soham murders

Prime minister Tony Blair resisted calls for a public inquiry following the Soham murders of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, according to newly released official files.

The killing of the two 10-year-olds in the summer of 2002 by school caretaker Ian Huntley shocked the country.

Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Following his arrest, it emerged Huntley had been able to get a job working with children, despite having been the subject of a series of complaints of rape and other sexual offences made to police in Humberside.

Home secretary David Blunkett wanted to order a public inquiry after HM Inspector of Constabulary said it was unclear if Cambridgeshire Constabulary had ever asked if there was any intelligence on Huntley, while Humberside’s data was so poor the result of any check would have been negative.

Papers released by the National Archives show Mr Blair’s initial response was that any inquiry should take place behind closed doors.

“I am wholly against a full, overt public inquiry. Why not get a sensible person reasonably eminent, to do it on a short and quick basis,” he wrote.

But under pressure from Mr Blunkett, Mr Blair agreed that Sir Michael Bichard, a former senior civil servant, should be able to conduct hearings in public.

His subsequent report, which heavily criticised police failings, led to the creation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority and the introduction of mandatory checks on the potential criminal background of anyone applying to work with children.

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