Mother of victim did not know her daughter was a prostitute

The mother of one of the victims of the alleged serial killer Steve Wright told Ipswich Crown Court yesterday that she had "no idea" her daughter was working as a prostitute.

Kerry Nicol was giving evidence from behind a screen at the trial of the forklift truck driver accused of killing five prostitutes in Ipswich before dumping their naked bodies. All the women were discovered over a 10-day period in December 2006.

Ms Nicol, a care home assistant said her daughter Tania, who was 19 when she died, had done well at school but started taking heroin after leaving home to live in a hostel when she was 16. The drugs caused the teenager's health and appearance to deterioraterapidly after she moved out, as she lost weight and the condition of her skin worsened, she said.

In the weeks before Tania's disappearance, on 30 October 2006, Ms Nicol said she discovered syringes in her daughter's bedroom, but her daughter insisted they belonged to a female friend and she was no longer taking drugs.

Tania had asked for help to get off the drugs, Ms Nicol told the court, adding: "I sent her away for a while." In 2004 her daughter moved to a flat in Ipswich.

The mother also indicated that, after Tania returned to the family home in late December 2005, she had failed to pick up on clues that her daughter was working as a prostitute. "She said she had a job and was managing all right," Ms Nicol told the court. "She told me a few different things. She was a hairdresser at one point. Another time behind a bar in a pub."

But the court heard that on one occasion Tania's mother had answered a call from a massage parlour called Cleopatra's asking for "Chantelle".

She said she had also found a similarly addressed letter in Tania's bedroom and that on two occasions men she did not know called at the house.

Ms Nicol, who also has a 16-year-old son, last saw her daughter, who was wearing cut-off jeans and pink high heeled shoes, at 10.45pm on the night of her disappearance. She said her daughter had told her she was going into town to see friends.

The court also heard evidence from PC Janet Humphrey, who patrols Ipswich's red-light area, near the Portman Road football ground. Between 30 and 50 women worked the area "occasionally" while a core group of between 15 and 20 were regulars.

Mr Wright, 49, denies murdering Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29. The trial continues.

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