Jury picked for Suffolk murder trial

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The Independent Online

A jury of 10 men and two women was selected yesterday to hear the trial of a forklift truck driver accused of murdering five prostitutes during a killing spree carried out at a pace never seen before in Britain.

The 2006 murders led to one of the country's biggest ever manhunts, drew comparisons with infamous 19th century serial killer "Jack the Ripper", and threw a spotlight on the murky world of drugs and illicit sex.

Steve Wright, 49, denies killing Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls, whose naked bodies were found dumped at rural locations around the eastern town of Ipswich.

Dozens of reporters, photographers and film crews gathered outside the court to see Wright's arrival, which is likely to be one of the most high-profile cases of recent years.

The jury were selected from 114 members of the public for a trial at Ipswich Crown Court that is expected to last six weeks. They were told Wright denied five counts of murder.

"This will be your case to decide on and only on the evidence you will hear," the judge, Justice Peter Gross told them, warning them to ignore media coverage and not to carry out private research on the Internet.

"The evidence is what you will hear in court and nowhere else. It is for you, the jury, and no one else to assess it."

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday when the prosecution will outline its case.

The bodies of the five murdered women were discovered in the space of just 11 days, a pace of murder said by the local police chief to be unrivalled in British criminal history.

Detectives launched the investigation on 2 December 2006, when the body of Adams, 25, was found in a stream.

The body of 19-year-old Nicol - last seen at the end of October and the first to be reported missing - was discovered in the same stream six days later.

The bodies of the other three - Alderton, a 24-year-old who was three months pregnant, Clennell, also 24, and 29-year-old Nicholls were found over the next four days.

All five were drug users and had become prostitutes as a result of their habit.

The murders elicited shock and widespread sympathy across the country and calls for action to help prostitutes.

Last month, Women's Minister Harriet Harman said she backed an outright ban on prostitution, similar to the system employed by Sweden.

Paying for sex in Britain is not a crime, but soliciting for sex or running brothels is.

However women's groups said an outright ban would not solve the issue and would put prostitutes at even greater risk.

"Men are not going to stop buying sex - it's just going to make it much more difficult and it's just going to drive it underground," Cari Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes told Reuters.

"When the murders took place, there was a public outpouring of compassion and demand that things should change. People really did grasp that it was because women were criminalised that they were so vulnerable."

Britain already has a history of killers targeting prostitutes.

The most notorious was Jack the Ripper, who was blamed for the deaths of five women in east London in 1888 but was never found.

The most prolific was Peter Sutcliffe, called the "Yorkshire Ripper", who murdered 13 women, mainly prostitutes, in northern England from 1975 to 1980 before he was caught.