Police officer on list of suspects in hunt for Ipswich killer

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A police officer has emerged as a suspect in the murder of five Suffolk prostitutes. The policeman, who works for a neighbouring constabulary, was linked to the inquiry by reports that he was a client of two of the victims.

Paula Clennell, 24, volunteered the information to police when she was interviewed by detectives shortly before she was killed and two other Ipswich prostitutes went missing.

The officer, who has not been identified, was among dozens of names on a list of clients that Ms Clennell had submitted to police, the News of the World claimed.

Ms Clennell's body was found naked in woods at Levington, near Ipswich, on 12 December. A post-mortem examination showed that she died as a result of compression to the neck. Officers in charge of the investigation refused to be drawn yesterday on the identity of any suspects or individuals who may still be of interest to them.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull said all lines of inquiry would be followed, but he had not been made aware of the identity of the officer.

Mr Gull said that, despite the drafting in of almost 500 officers from 31 forces across the country, no one has been arrested or interviewed under caution for any offence relating to the killings.

So far, the police have received more than 10,000 calls offering information after making public appeals last week.

Police officers spoke to more than 400 motorists and pedestrians in Ipswich's red light area on Saturday night in an effort to build up pictures of the women's final days.

Meanwhile, it emerged that a man had been released on police bail in relation to an attempted abduction of a woman in Ipswich's red light district just before the first body was discovered.

Mr Gull would not say whether officers were linking the incident to the prostitute killings, but he said: "Nobody has been eliminated at this stage. We know who that individual is. He has been released on bail. We will take further action if we think it is appropriate."

Police also released details of the last known movements of Anneli Alderton, 24, who was captured by CCTV travelling on a train from Harwich to Colchester on 3 December, a week before she was found dead. Police now believe she got off the train at Manningtree station at 6.15pm and may have boarded a train to Ipswich at 6.43pm. Officers have asked people who were at Manningtree at the time to come forward.

Prostitutes in the region are being offered financial help to stay off the streets but some have ignored police warnings and carried on working, many to feed drug habits, despite the discovery of the five bodies in less than two weeks.

The police inquiry began on 2 December when the body of Gemma Adams, 25, was found in a stream near Ipswich. Police found the body of Tania Nicol, 19, in the same stream on 8 December.

Police confirmed on Friday that Annette Nicholls, 29, was the fifth victim. Ms Nicholls, who trained as a beautician before turning to prostitution, was last seen on 5 December, a week before her naked body was found dumped in the countryside.

Ms Alderton, who was three months pregnant when she was murdered, was strangled and Ms Clennell, 24, was killed by compression to the neck. The cause of death of the other three women is not yet known.

Police admitted yesterday that there were still "holes" in the investigation but expected to "close" them as soon as they had received and analysed all the evidence.

People helping the inquiry

* TOM STEPHENS, 37 Suffolk supermarket worker

Mr Stephens has been interviewed four times by police investigating the murder of the Ipswich prostitutes. A report in The Sunday Mirror claimed Mr Stephens, who lives in Felixstowe, told the paper that he knew all five and regarded himself as their "protector". He had become particularly close to Tania Nichol, 19. He told the paper that he started making contact with the prostitutes of Ipswich 18 months ago after his eight-year marriage collapsed. He strenuously maintained he had nothing to do with the disappearance or murder of any of them.

* ANDREW PURDY, 44 Suffolk property developer

Mr Purdy has admitted knowing all five of the murdered women and many other prostitutes working in Ipswich. At a memorial service in the town he said he was trying to help them beat their drug addictions so that they could come off the streets. Mr Purdy said he began his "mentor" role at the request of a Bristol-based charity that was trying to trace a missing woman believed to be working in Ipswich's vice trade. Mr Purdy said he had once helped Gemma Adams, 25, escape an attacker. When Ms Adams screamed, he flashed his car headlights at the man who had grabbed her, who ran off.

* SERVING POLICE OFFICER

Working for a constabulary bordering Suffolk. Neither he nor his police force has been identified but it is understood that murdered prostitute Paula Clennell named him as one of her clients shortly before she was murdered.