Archive for Friday, December 22, 2006

Suspect charged in prostitute deaths

December 22, 2006

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— Authorities charged a 48-year-old man Thursday with the murders of five prostitutes whose bodies were recovered this month - crimes that terrified this English town and prompted some women to change their routines as a precaution.

Police identified the suspect late Thursday as Stephen Wright, who lives in Ipswich's red-light district and was taken into custody Tuesday.

"Stephen Wright from Ipswich has been charged with the murder of all five women," Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull said at a news conference. Wright was to appear in court today.

Forensic experts clad in white hooded coveralls and protective masks collected evidence from his house Thursday. Officers could be seen bringing crowbars and a sledgehammer into the residence.

Gull said that another man, a 37-year-old area resident who had been arrested Monday, was released on bail. Police did not name the man or say whether he remained a suspect, and they gave no details on if or when he would be investigated further.

Investigators had until this evening to charge or release the 37-year-old man - identified in news reports as Tom Stephens. He had been arrested at his home in Trimley St. Martin, eight miles southeast of Ipswich, where all the victims worked.

The reports said Stephens was a part-time taxi driver, supermarket worker and former volunteer police officer. He was quoted in an interview with the Sunday Mirror newspaper as saying he knew all the victims, and regarded himself as their protector.

Prosecutor Michael Crimp said there was "sufficient evidence" to charge Wright with the murders of Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell, Annette Nicholls and Gemma Adams.

"As the case has developed, we have been carefully examining and assessing the evidence in order to come to a charging decision at the earliest possible opportunity," Crimp said.

Police arrested Wright on Tuesday at his home near where several of the girls were last seen. Police later seized a dark blue Ford Mondeo from the property.

All five victims had been working as prostitutes; their naked bodies were found in rural areas around Ipswich during a 10-day period beginning Dec. 2.

Three of the bodies were found near the main road and the rail line between Ipswich and Trimley; the two others were discovered near the same road in areas south and southwest of Ipswich.

The British Broadcasting Corp. and other media reported earlier that Wright worked as a forklift driver and had lived in the area since September.

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