As the ex-girlfriend of a double child killer whose crimes she tried to cover up, Maxine Carr is perhaps Britain's most hated women - and, as she prepares for freedom, a real worry for her 17 namesakes.

British women unfortunate enough to share Carr's name are to receive special police protection lest they face attacks from a vigilante mistaking them for the jailed 27-year-old, the Britain's Sunday Telegraph has reported.

One is even considering whether she might have to change her name or move house, the paper said.

Carr acquired her reviled status after partner Ian Huntley murdered 10-year-old girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in the town of Soham, eastern England, in August 2002.

Although she was in a different part of the country when Huntley committed the crime, Carr was convicted of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in 2003 at one of the highest-profile trials Britain has seen for many years.

There are reports that Carr could be released from her prison sentence as soon as next week.

Another Maxine Carr - one of just 17 in Britain - told the newspaper that she was dreading this moment.

"When I say my name on the phone, people go very quiet for a minute while they ponder if I could really be her," the 38-year-old Carr said.

"I just hope and pray that no idiots or nutters do anything," she added.

"I don't want to have to change my name or do anything like moving house. I don't see why I should."

Another, a 76-year-old widow, said she had also considered drastic measures.

"I was thinking of changing my name to Marjorie Carr, but then I thought, why the hell should I? I haven't done anything wrong.'"

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1104385.htm