Police make 'significant' arrest in murder hunt

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In a new twist in the hunt for the killer of five Ipswich prostitutes, a second man was arrested yesterday over the murders in a move described by Suffolk police as "significant". Meanwhile detectives continued questioning a supermarket worker held in custody since Monday.

The latest arrest came at 5am yesterday at a house in London Road, in Ipswich's red light area, when detectives detained a man named locally as Steve Wright, 48, who is believed to be a former dock worker at the nearby port of Felixstowe.

Mr Wright, who has lived there with his partner, Pamela, for only about three months, was still being questioned last night at a police station in Ipswich. Police have declined to name the man officially.

After cordoning off the immediate area around the flat, police took away a blue Ford Mondeo car, believed to belong to Mr Wright, for examination and white-suited forensic teams were called in to search the flat.

Police sources said the arrest was now being seen as "more significant" than the detention less than 24 hours earlier of Tom Stephens, 37, from the village of Trimley St Martin, south of Ipswich. Mr Stephens, who claimed to have been friendly with all of the women, was also being held on suspicion of murdering them. Although last night a magistrate gave police leave to continue holding Mr Stephens for a further 36 hours, a police source said inquiries were now likely to concentrate on the second arrested man.

Inquests into four of the five women will be opened and adjourned at Ipswich Crown Court this morning, police said yesterday. The bodies of Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell, together with that of Gemma Adams, whose inquest was opened last week, were all found naked on the southern and eastern outskirts of Ipswich between 2 and 12 December. They were all aged between 19 and 29, were drug users and worked the small red-light area of Ipswich.

Although detectives suggested after the arrest of Mr Stephens that they would not be making any further appeals or statements, it was being stressed yesterday that the inquiry was still continuing at full stretch and that police remained anxious for the public to come forward with any information.

Friends and neighbours of Mr Wright yesterday expressed astonishment at the arrest, describing him as a friendly, quiet, well-dressed man, who enjoyed a regular game of golf and cleaning his recently acquired car at weekends. His occupation remained unclear: although it was believed he had been a P&O steward on a cruise liner in the past, he was variously described as a lorry driver or a fork-lift truck driver at Felixstowe docks. The docks company said he was not currently on its payroll, although he might have been in the past.

Joe Franey, 50, who lives near by, said: "The police arrived at about 5am. There was just a hammering and a banging on the door. We saw him being led out, he was dressed. He seemed quite composed, quite normal. He was just led across to the police car and led away." Describing Mr Wright and his partner, he said: "They were very isolated, they kept themselves to themselves. We saw them around and said 'good morning' and 'good evening' but they didn't mix at all. It is quite a close area and they didn't make any attempt to mix at all."

Before moving to London Road, the couple had lived in a private rented flat in a modern block in Bell Close, a couple of miles away. Steve McDonald, 37, a coffee shop worker who lived in the flat above the couple, said: "They were good neighbours. I would describe him as a quiet, tall, portly gentleman with silver hair. He was always dressed in smart, casual clothes." He said Mr Wright's partner would leave the house between 5pm and 9pm and return early in the morning, adding: "Sometimes when she went out to work, I got the impression that there was someone else in the flat with him because I would hear talking."

She is believed to have worked nights at a call centre in the town.

They are believed to have moved out because they came into some money.

Mr Wright is believed to have an adult daughter from an earlier marriage, while his partner has a son, Jamie, a chef, from her first marriage.