It is 5.45am on day nine of the trial of Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr and the shrieking alarm is my cue to crawl out of bed. One hot shower later, I begin the bizarre dressing ritual required for a day at the Old Bailey – one of London’s most notorious wind tunnels.
With three thermal vests, two jumpers, a pair of thermal leggings and several other woolly layers as armour, I brave the elements.
For the next few months, I’m reporting on the Soham trial for ITV News.
This involves doing live reports every half an hour, from 8am until 5pm. In between times, I’m nipping in and out of court, liaising with my producer about my quote graphics and keeping my cameraman (and myself) well-supplied with coffee. We, like the BBC and Sky, have pretty much the same team every day, and as the faces become familiar, the sense of camaraderie between the broadcasting tribes grows.
Since the trial began, the Old Bailey has been littered with crews.
Reporters on the pavement writing, court artists sticking their drawings up to be filmed, cameramen with lenses poised. All journalistic life is here.
Until 10.30am, when court begins, my reports recap what happened the day before. This morning I talk about the written testimonies of Holly and Jessica’s parents, who described how an ordinary Sunday afternoon last summer went so tragically wrong.
Their evidence is moving. For all of us – particularly some of my colleagues who have reported the story since the day the girls disappeared – this is a difficult trial to cover.
As the judge said on day one, the death of anyone, particularly a child, gives rise to emotion but, he added, solemnly, the courtroom was not the place for emotion. And while the sight of the girls’ parents arriving, day in, day out, is heartbreaking, the judge’s words and the concept of a fair trial is at the forefront of all our minds.
Today the court hears from a variety of witnesses, among them Huntley’s former boss at Soham Village College.
At 4.30pm, court’s out and I prepare for my last live of the day. Our flagship hour is 5pm, so I do a hefty live report with the help of my trusty half-screen quote graphics. After this, I’m free.
I’m exhausted, but convince myself this is no excuse to cancel dinner with friends. Again, I roll into bed at midnight and sleep like a log.
Storms and gale force winds are forecast and as I walk towards the Bailey, I’m praying we might be spared. To no avail. At 8am the wind is strong – strong enough for one of our cameramen to have to hold down the microphone stand. And by the afternoon, we’re clinging on for dear life.
I stay in court until the last minute before each live. The trial is taking place in the historic Number One courtroom, but they’ve provided a court annex for the press.
Proceedings are relayed on four screens: one for the judge, another for the barristers, one focuses on the defendants and a fourth for the witness box. Once again, the behaviour and movements of Huntley are the focus. Among the witnesses a friend of Holly’s father, who recounts how, while out searching, he screamed his daughter’s name into the darkness and waited for a response that never came.
Adverse weather conditions mean that, behind the scenes anyway, today’s 5pm live is, well, eventful. As they’re going live to me, on cue, a huge gust of wind whistles down the street and takes my breath away. Literally.
After a few seconds I manage to start speaking, but my eyes are watering so much that I’m straining to see the quotes in my notebook. About a minute in, another gust blows the light stand over. Out of the corner of my eye, I see someone trying to reerect it and amid all this, while struggling to stay on my feet, I try to stay coherent. Over the past few weeks, I reckon I’ve done more than a 100 fiveminute lives. This one is no longer, but it seems never-ending.
On the way to the Bailey today, I buy The Guardian. On the front page, is a report on the pros and cons of televised trials in the UK. The article mentions the Soham trial and ITV News’s 3D graphics are credited with having gone some way to revolutionise the way court stories are reported.
The weather is once again against us today. This time it’s day-long, torrential rain and as the water beats down on to my soggy notebook, making my carefully straightened hair curlier than ever, my spirits are failing fast. We battle on until five, then make our wet way home.
Today in court, as well as police officers and journalists, the jury hears from a man who claims he hitched a lift from Grimsby with Huntley and Carr, two days after the girls went missing. Court finishes early today, because the police are needed as extra security for Bush’s arrival later.
Jacob: ‘Their evidence is moving; for all of us this is a difficult trial to cover’
Every channel is going big on Bush – ITV News included – which means I’m down to about one live an hour and have the luxury of staying in court to follow proceedings pretty much in full. I watch with envy as the PA journalists in the row in front scribble shorthand at lightning speed and I wish for the 100th time since the trial began that I’d tried harder to learn.
Today’s evidence is particularly pertinent, as many of the witnesses are our colleagues: journalists and photographers who were in Soham during the search for Holly and Jessica. Their interviews with Huntley and Carr are played to the jurors on TV screens.
My cameraman, Dave Prime, wasn’t called as a witness, but he was in Soham covering the story alongside my colleague Colin Baker. Now, Prime is not one for public shows of emotion, but he tells me: “No story I’ve ever worked on has affected me as much as those 13 days in Soham.”
As we prepare for 5pm, the cars carrying Holly and Jessica’s parents depart back towards Soham. This trial could last for 12 weeks but they have vowed to try to be in court every day.