LONDON – U.K. police are as "certain as can be" that two bodies they found in the woods are missing 10-year-old girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, Reuters reported Sunday.
Police signaled Saturday that they had given up hope of finding Holly and Jessica alive, arresting two people, reportedly school workers, on suspicion of murder.
The anguish in the children's close-knit hometown of Soham, near Cambridge, grew a few hours later when detectives said they had discovered two bodies in a wooded area alongside a dirt path in a nature preserve seven miles away.
``Soham's heart is broken,'' read a card left among a heap of flowers outside the Church of St. Andrew.
Bright lights illuminated the area overnight as forensic experts hunted for clues. Police said a pathologist would examine the bodies at the scene, where they would remain as the investigation continued.
Holly and Jessica vanished on Aug. 4, and their story has dominated Britain's front pages in the two weeks since.
Hundreds of Soham residents gathered Sunday morning at the Church of St. Andrew to pray for the girls and their families.
``The whole town feels violated by the disappearance of Jessica and Holly,'' said the Rev. Tim Alban Jones.
Cambridgeshire Police said Saturday they had apprehended a 28-year-old man on suspicion of murder and abduction and a 25-year-old woman on suspicion of murder.
Detectives had said as late as Friday night that they remained optimistic the girls were still alive.
Police did not release the suspects' names, but news reports identified the them as Ian Huntley, a caretaker at the local secondary school, and his partner Maxine Carr, a former teaching assistant who worked with Holly and Jessica's primary school class until July.
The ages matched those of two people questioned by police on Friday and identified then by news organizations as Huntley and Carr.
Detectives would not say publicly whether they were the suspects taken into custody early Saturday at Soham Village College, the secondary school where Huntley is caretaker. The campus also includes Holly and Jessica's primary school and Huntley and Carr's home.
In the British legal system, suspects are not charged at the same time they are arrested, and the pair have not been formally accused. Police have 96 hours from the time of arrest to charge or release them.
News reports said that until they were taken in for questioning, Huntley and Carr had been eager participants in the search for Holly and Jessica.
Huntley reportedly told officers shortly after the hunt began that he had seen the girls just before they vanished. He emotionally recounted his story for journalists and the television cameras.
Carr, who was reportedly close with both girls, told the cameras she would always keep a card Holly had drawn for her on the last day of school.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.