Serial killer might be roaming Ipswich

Police in British city warn prostitutes to stay off streets after five bodies are found

December 13, 2006|By Tom Hundley | Tom Hundley,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

LONDON -- Police in southeastern England issued an urgent warning to prostitutes to stay off the streets after the bodies of two more women were discovered yesterday, bringing to five the number found since Dec. 2.

All of the women, ranging in age from 19 to 29, are believed to have been working as prostitutes in the Suffolk city of Ipswich, about 70 miles northeast of London.

Police are convinced they are dealing with a serial killer. Britain's tabloids have dubbed him the Suffolk Strangler.

"We have three prostitutes murdered, now possibly another two. I don't know what stronger warning there can be to get off the streets as soon as possible," said Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull, who heads the investigation.

The naked bodies of Gemma Adams, 25, and Tania Nicol, 19, were found in a fast-flowing stream on the outskirts of Ipswich. The body of the third woman, Anneli Alderton, 24, also naked, was found in a wooded area a few miles away.

Alderton had been strangled. The cause of death for Adams and Nicol has not yet been determined.

Yesterday, police were combing the area for Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29, sex workers in the Ipswich red light district who had not been seen for several days.

Just days before her disappearance, Clennell was interviewed on British television and said she planned to keep working because she needed the money.

A member of the public spotted the fourth body yesterday about 20 feet from the road in the same wooded area where Alderton's body was found. The fifth body was found a few hundred yards away. Neither has been formally identified.

"Because of the discovery of two further bodies close to where the body of Anneli Alderton was found, we can only fear the worst. The natural assumption is that these are the two missing women," Gull said.

The killings inevitably stirred memories of the Yorkshire Ripper, a truck driver named Peter Sutcliffe who killed 13 women between 1975 and 1980. He was caught in 1981 just as he was about to claim his 14th victim.

Suffolk Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter said police had been taken aback by the speed with which the Ipswich killer was working.

"In the case of the Yorkshire Ripper, those murders took place over several years," he noted in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. "This number of murders in such a short period of time is very demanding, but we're putting resources in place to deal with it."

Gull issued a direct plea to the killer: "Make contact with the Suffolk police. Clearly, you have a significant problem. Give me a call, and we can deal with this."

Suffolk Assistant Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer said she had suspended the enforcement of local prostitution laws in order to encourage women to come forward with any information they might have about possible suspects.

Normally about 40 prostitutes ply their trade in the red light district near Ipswich's soccer stadium, but this week the numbers were down significantly, according to local press accounts.

A few of those who were working admitted their fear but said they needed the money to support drug habits.

Tom Hundley writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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