'Massive' public response in prostitute murders probe

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The Independent Online

Detectives investigating the murders of five prostitutes in Ipswich said today that they had received more than 2,000 calls from members of the public offering information.

The officer heading the inquiry said the response had been "massive".

Police said that, during the night, they had also received three more reports of missing prostitutes.

But Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull, who is heading the investigation, said all three had been traced and were safe and well.

"The response from the public to our appeals for information has been massive," said Mr Gull.

"Our task now is to sift through this vast volume of information to prioritise our inquiries."

Specialists were today searching an area near Levington, Suffolk, where the bodies of two women were found yesterday.

The women were the fourth and fifth found dead near Ipswich in a 10-day period.

Police believe they are missing Ipswich prostitutes Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29.

The bodies of prostitutes Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, and Anneli Alderton, 24, were found in other nearby villages.

Police said they were treating the deaths of Miss Adams, Miss Nicol and Miss Alderton as murders, and have yet to complete their examinations of the bodies of the women found yesterday.

"The bodies of the two women found yesterday evening remain at the scene, which is cordoned off," added Mr Gull.

"They were found naked, approximately 150 metres apart, on rough ground near the village of Levington.

"They are likely to remain at this location, protected from the elements to preserve evidence, for some time."

Mr Gull said the News of the World newspaper had offered a £250,000 reward - thought to be the largest in history.

"We are getting good support from the public, media and colleagues in other forces," he said.

"An example of this is a £250,000 reward, apparently the largest ever, which has been put up by the News of the World newspaper."

Mr Gull said: "However, it is vitally important that people continue to ring in if they have information.

"In each of the three murder inquiries we have a significant gap between when the women were last seen and the discovery of their bodies.

"We need to find out where these women were between these times."

He went on: "This is a huge inquiry - but the extra help could make a crucial difference."

Mr Gull said it was unlikely that police would confirm today the identities of the two women found near Levington.

And he stressed that officers wanted to hear from anyone who had concerns about any prostitute.

"It is important that if anyone has concerns for the safety of a prostitute in Ipswich that they contact us immediately," he added.

"We continue to work closely with Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, the community drugs team and the county drug and alcohol action team and there are outreach workers on the ground who are supporting local prostitutes."

Police today released a new picture of Miss Alderton, who came from Colchester, Essex, in the hope of unearthing more information about the last hours of her life.