Police look for links between two Ipswich suspects

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The Independent Online

Detectives were last night given an extra 36 hours to interview Steve Wright, the second man arrested over the Ipswich serial killings as new claims were made about his links with the red light area in Norwich, where the murders of two other prostitutes and the disappearance of a third remain unsolved.

As inquests were opened into the deaths of four of the five murdered prostitutes, it also became clear police were examining possible links between Wright, 48, who lived on the edge of the Ipswich red light area and the first man arrested on Monday, Tom Stephens, 37, who claimed to have known all the women. But Suffolk police have refused to comment on suggestions there is evidence of mobile phone contact between the two.

Mr Stephens, a supermarket worker who was arrested at his home in Trimley St Martin near Felixstowe, was also still being questioned last night, although detectives have described the arrest of Mr Wright as "more significant''. It is believed that his arrest followed the examination of CCTV evidence - police have seized tapes from cameras all over the town - and from forensic examination of the bodies of the three prostitutes discovered in open country.

Both Suffolk Police and neighbouring Norfolk Police stressed yesterday that they were not formally linking any of the other unsolved murders of prostitutes and young women in East Anglia with the Ipswich killings, although they are not ruling out a link. Two Norwich prostitutes, Natalie Pearman, 16, and Michelle Bettles, 22, whose killings in 1996 and 2002 remain unsolved, were both strangled. Another prostitute, Kellie Pratt, went missing in 2000 and has never been found.

Born in Felixstowe - his father is a former docks policeman - Mr Wright has been married twice. His current partner, Pamela, a call centre worker, shares his second name, but they are not believed to be married. Said to be "devastated", she was the subject of a furious bidding war between media organisations anxious for her story. Other relatives and friends have expressed shock that the quietly spoken, golf-loving man could be suspected of the killings.

Mr Wright has three grown-up children from his first marriage. His second wife, Diana Cole, whom he met while working as a steward on the QE2, married him in 1987 so that they could take over the Ferry Boat Inn in Norwich. She lives in Hartlepool and told her local newspaper yesterday that the marriage had been a "total disaster" and had only lasted a year.

At the opening in the inquests into the deaths of Tania Nicol, 19; Anneli Alderton, 24; Annette Nicholls, 29, and Paula Clennell, 24, Detective Superintendent Andy Henwood of Suffolk Police said the murder of five women in such a short time was "unique, not only in Suffolk, but the country as a whole".

The Greater Suffolk coroner, Dr Peter Dean, adjourned the hearing to a date to be fixed. The inquest into the death of the first body to be found, that of Gemma Adams, 25, has also been opened and adjourned.