Posted in Books I have read

Beyond Evil – Nathan Yates

True Crime 3*s
True Crime
3*s

Having to make an unexpected visit to my brother who is heavily into true crime, I had a wealth of horrific true murders to choose from for my bedtime reading and I picked up this book having vividly remembered the TV reports back in 2002 where we all desperately hoped that Hollie Wells and Jessica Chapman would be found alive, sadly it wasn’t to be.

This true crime book is written by a journalist who was at the scene reporting for the Daily Mirror, I have to confess my expectations were fairly low. Although this isn’t the best example of this type of book, it is far from the worst and not quite as sensational as the title might suggest; full title is Beyond Evil: Inside the Mind of Ian Huntley, the Wickedest Man on Earth.

Nathan Yates expertly reconstructs the afternoon when the two ten-year-old girls set off for a walk well within their permitted boundaries in Soham, Cambridgeshire, and the horror only too easily imagined when both sets of parents realised they were missing. This book also reported how Huntley inserted himself into the search and became an unofficial spokesman for the locals while the hunt for the girls continued. He quickly volunteered the information that he’d seen the two as they passed his house. Hollie and Jessica knew Huntley’s girlfriend Maxine Carr and it seems likely that they asked after her. Only Ian Huntley actually knows what happened next and Nathan Yates is unable to add anything that wasn’t already in the public domain.

The book is cleverly constructed flipping between days to make the pertinent points which was especially useful to demonstrate that while Huntley thought he was covering up his crime, the police already had their suspicions although Nathan Yates, unsurprisingly, gives much of the credit to the media!

The part of this book that was more informative is the role that Maxine Carr played in the covering up of the crime, again she has steadfastly claimed she didn’t know what her boyfriend had done and so provided an alibi to save him from suspicion. Unfortunately for her once Ian Huntley was under suspicion, the fact that she was miles away in Grimsby at the time the girls went missing, was quickly proved. The author provides quite comprehensive background to Maxine’s earlier life which allowed me to come to my own conclusions about her motivation for providing him with an alibi.

This book which claims to know more about the perpetrator’s thoughts than is possible having had no access to him or even those close to him, reads like a fairly long newspaper report. As such it provides broad background to a shocking case but adds little in the way of real insight into the crime. What it does really well is to give the reader a real sense of those two girls whose lives were cut short in what appears to be a classic case of crossing the path of a man who acted on impulse in the most terrible way.

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

33 thoughts on “Beyond Evil – Nathan Yates

  1. I always thought that this case struck a real chord with people because that photograph was taken on the same day and showed two beautiful little girls with their whole lives ahead of them. I’d be interested to learn more about Maxine Carr and her background. She is often vilified even more than Huntley which I have always found strange.

    1. I agree, the photo taken so soon before they went missing and the fact that there were two of them, something as a parent you think will make it safer, made this a truly chilling murder. I agree with you regards Carr and I think the media had a lot to do with it. She was cleared of knowing the girls had been killed by Huntley and while she possibly delayed his ultimate arrest she clearly had nothing to do with the crime itself.

  2. Oh my, I can’t believe that the author is trying to credit the media for the detection!
    I would definitely have expected something a bit more sensationalist given the title and cover, so it’s nice to see it’s a bit better than that.

    1. I suppose it was only to be expected but it was a fairly blatant bias of the facts. Reading on you realise the police were hoping to find the girls and were watching Huntley before his arrest.

  3. Interesting – I remember this case so clearly. Were the families involved in the writing of this book at all? If not, its unpleasant that he’s making money off the back of their tragedy.

    1. It was one of those crimes that featured heavily on the news at the time with the poignant reconstructions and appeals by the parents, hard to forget. The families weren’t involved in the book and although I understand the sentiment you express, there is an argument that crime sells newspapers. Of course this can be beneficial when appealing for information but not so much when the story is about the trial or the endless stories about the two defendants over a decade afterwards. I totally agree that when a new story breaks it must be devastating for the iconic picture on the front of the book to be prominent once more.

      1. Yes, I can see its a necessary part of the process at the time, to have all the reporting happening. Writing a book so many years later when the killer has been found is a bit more troublesome, but I suppose it also shows what the comments on this post have demonstrated, that the 2 girls have not been forgotten – hopefully that is some comfort to the families.

  4. I was in Scotland when they disappeared miles and miles away from proper cities but still saw the headlines in the papers that they were missing .. Sad

  5. What a heartbreaking story this was, Cleo! I remember reading about it and feeling so awful for the families. I’m glad you thought this was worth the read, even if not the most insightful, stellar account of what happened.

    1. It is a very different beast indeed and whereas I really enjoy the historical true crime this being something that I remember and that is still commented on a little more difficult to read without bringing my own views along, perhaps making me more critical.

  6. I read this book years ago, I was a young teenager when it happened, so didn’t really watch the use but I remember watching about these poor girls. It’s horrific that someone like this could work at a school.I am just glad the famlies got closer which isn’t always the case.

  7. This reminds me of a pin on Pinterest. It was a picture of Hitler walking with his daughter, holding her hand. In the description, there was a conversation with someone remarking about how ppl like him were monsters but the other person made a point how he wasn’t a monster, but human or whatever and that we needed to remember some ppl expect murderers to look like monsters when they are ordinary ppl who lived in our neighborhoods, had a dog, etc.

    1. I think he tried to ascribe actions that he couldn’t possibly know and that is always the problem with these types of books – the author had a story to tell but because it was true and no-one actually knows what happened apart from Ian Huntley I was sceptical of the thoughts and feelings being ascribed to him.

  8. I love true crime books of older murders, but I’m always a bit wary of ones where the immediate families of the victim are still around, even if they’re involved in producing the book. Not only was this a shocking case, but it’s had so many repercussions on people working with children, or even volunteering.

    1. I have to admit I prefer the historical stuff too but there were two things that drew me to this particular book – the role Maxine Carr played bearing in mind the fact that all these years on and despite being protected (from the public) by an anonymity order she is still demonised in the press and secondly as you point out the massive changes made to the way people are vetted before spending ‘regular’ time with children. Point one was answered, I’m still unsure as to whether the second point would have avoided Huntley doing something similar whether he’d been employed as a caretaker or not.

      1. A good question – having worked in a school and carried out these Disclosure checks, I’d say not. They’re dependent on someone having been caught in the past…

        What they have done though is put loads of perfectly decent adults, especially men, off from working or volunteering with kids. And added a huge layer of expense to lots of charities that simply can’t afford it. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater… it’s a difficult one.

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