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Head nearly resigned over reference slip

The head who employed Ian Huntley came close to resigning when he realised he had not checked the former caretaker's references and may have missed an opportunity to prevent the murders.

Howard Gilbert, principal of Soham village college, employed the former caretaker in 2001 after he was given the all-clear by Cambridgeshire police.

"Can you imagine how I felt when I realised that I may have missed an opportunity to stop the man?" asked Mr Gilbert.

But taking up the references would have made no difference. Their authenticity was verified after Huntley's arrest.

"If it had transpired I had missed that chance I do not know how I would have felt," said Mr Gilbert.

Mr Gilbert welcomed Sir Michael's report. Although he was disappointed that information relating to Huntley's past had not been passed on to him, he praised the way police had worked with the school.

He said students only received their GCSE results on time because civilians were allowed to work alongside police officers on the school site.

Mr Gilbert said Huntley had rocked his faith in human nature but support from staff and the community had kept him going. He also paid tribute to the "outstanding" attitude of his pupils.

"If you came to the college and walked around even during the days when the hangar and the school were behind barriers, you would have got a sense of normality."

Friday magazine 17

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