“This was a targeted campaign of murder”
Nearly three decades after the Yorkshire Ripper (see page 397) terrorized women in the north of England, another serial killer began picking off prostitutes, this time in East Anglia.
On 2 December 2006 the naked body of 25-year-old heroin addict Gemma Adams was found in Belstead Brook at Thorpe’s Hill, near Hintlesham. On 8 December 19-year-old heroin and cocaine addict Tania Nicol’s corpse was discovered in water at Copdock Mill just outside Ipswich. Nicol had been missing since 30 October. Two days later the naked body of Armeli Alderton was found in woods by the A14 in Nacton.
A 24-year-old drug addict and mother of one, she had been strangled and was three months’ pregnant. On 12 December, Suffolk police announced that the bodies of two more women had been found, later identified as 24-year-old drug addict and mother of three Paula Clennell, and 29-year-old heroin addict and mother of one Annette Nicholls. Their naked corpses were found in Nacton near the A1156 Levington turn-off.
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Monday 30 October-Tuesday 12 December 2006
The police launched Operation Sumac to find the killer or killers. A crank who frequently associated with the dead prostitutes was questioned and released without charge. At 5am on 19 December 2006 Steven Gerald James Wright, 48, was arrested at his home, 79, London Road, Ipswich, on suspicion of murder and charged two days later.
Wright pleaded not guilty at his trial, which began on 14 January 2008 at Ipswich Crown Court. During the trial Wright admitted to having had sex with all five victims except Tania Nichols, which was how, his lawyer explained, his DNA was found on the victims. Wright’s DNA had been added to the national database in 2001 after he was convicted of stealing £80 while working as a hotel barman.
On 21 February 2008 he was found guilty of all five murders after eight hours of deliberation. Although the jury’s verdicts were decisive, prosecutors admitted that they remained puzzled about the motive behind the killings. Wright was sentenced the next day to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he should never be freed. Mr Justice Gross said: “It is right you should spend your whole life in prison. This was a targeted campaign of murder. You killed them, stripped them and left them… why you did it may never be known.”
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Paula Clennell had been interviewed by local television about the murders and said that she was “a bit wary about getting into cars” but added, “I need the money.”