Profiling helps police track suspected killer

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The Independent Online

Detectives hunting the murderer at large in East Anglia will be drawing up a detailed profile of the methods and motives of a suspected serial killer.

The attacker may be targeting prostitutes out of a sense of hatred and because he believes he can "get away with it", research into previous attacks on sex workers suggests.

The multiple murderer may also be suffering from mental illness, and have a long history of violence against prostitutes, specialists said yesterday.

They fear that he will continue targeting sex workers until he is caught.

Rosie Campbell, chair of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, and a researcher who has spent more than 10 years studying sex worker issues, said: "Sex workers are often portrayed in the media as rubbish or sewage. Some men will buy into this negative culture. They may be opportunistic attackers who may pay for sex and then use violence to demand the money back.

"They believe, possibly, that women in sex work don't matter and are 'asking for it'. They don't think the police will be interested in investigating the case."

She added: "You see many one-off murders of sex workers, which are usually the culmination of a number of previous rapes and attacks on sex workers.

"Peter Sutcliffe, [the Yorkshire Ripper] was a classic case of someone who continued to carry out attacks over a long period. Much more common is a one-off murderer who is detected early on.

"This latest case seems to be in the group of prolific murderers."

Sutcliffe killed 13 women in the north of England and attacked seven more in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Several of the victims were prostitutes.

Ms Campbell said that not all murdered prostitutes are sexually assaulted - the first two Suffolk victims were not sexually assaulted, according to the police. "It can just be about hatred or the thrill of killing without prior sexual contact," said Ms Campbell.

Hilary Kinnell, an expert on violence against prostitutes, analysed 84 sex worker homicides which occurred between 1990 and 2004, for the newly published book, Sex Work Now.

All the victims, except for one 15-year-old boy, were women, with ages ranging from 14 to 46. About 80 per cent of the women worked on the street, showing how vulnerable they are compared with prostitutes who operate from massage parlours or flats.

Just over half of the killings were by men approaching the prostitutes as clients. About a third were carried out by the victim's partner, acquaintance or drug dealer.

Ms Kinnell wrote: "There is evidence that a high percentage of murders are committed by men with previous convictions for violence, not only against sex workers, and not only against women."

She added: "The failure of mental health services to monitor or even identify potentially violent patients is evident in seven deaths and other attacks that have occurred at the hands of people known to have a history of psychiatric disorder."

Examples of mentally ill people targeting prostitutes include Anthony Hardy, 53, who was convicted in November 2003 of the murder of three London sex workers, two of whom had been found dismembered in bin bags near his home in Camden the previous December. The third had been found dead in his flat several months earlier, but the post mortem concluded she had died from natural causes. Hardy had a history of psychiatric disorder.

According to Ms Kinnell over a third of the 84 deaths (31) are not known to have been resolved.