'The Gemma we remember was a loving, beautiful girl'

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The Independent Online

"I never in my worst nightmares thought your life would turn out like this," read the card attached to a bunch of flowers where Gemma Adams was last seen.

To her parents, Gemma was still the intelligent, animated child who had played the piano and joined the Brownies while growing up in the comfortable suburb of Kesgrave, near Ipswich.

Yesterday, it became increasingly likely that Gemma, the girl who was once so devoted to her dog, Holly, would forever be linked with the ravages of a serial killer.

Brian and Gail Adams were still reeling from the news, broken to them two weeks ago, that their "wonderful" daughter was working as a prostitute who had disappeared off the streets of Ipswich. A fortnight later, police returned to tell them the 25-year-old's naked body had been found in a brook a few miles away.

The headlines and news bulletins yesterday described their daughter as "murdered prostitute" but her parents were determined to offer a more positive image of their beloved daughter.

"I don't want people to think of her only as a prostitute," said her father. "The Gemma we want to remember was a loving, beautiful and wonderful girl."

Gemma had been, in the words of one of her teachers, "an ordinary intelligent girl from a nice family". Growing up with her two siblings in a large detached house on the outskirts of Ipswich, the bubbly youngster had enjoyed an uncomplicated life, horse-riding and making the best of family summer holidays.

While at Kesgrave High School, aged 15, she met her childhood sweetheart Jon Simpson and fell into the "wrong crowd" every parent dreads. The pair would descend into a spiral of heroin addiction.

For a while, Gemma fought the grip of the drug, completing a GNVQ course in health and social care at Suffolk College before gaining a position with an insurance company. Soon, however, staff noticed she was slipping out for longer lunch periods - to feed her habit - or taking too many days off. About two years ago she was sacked.

Her parents took her to see doctors and the community drug rehabilitation team but all attempts to wean her off the drugs failed. "It's every parent's worst nightmare. Once your child is involved with hard drugs your heart is already broken," said her father.

"I had a strong suspicion all was not well and her life was degenerating into a fairly chaotic state. But despite numerous attempts to make contact to try to help her resolve her problems we were unable to."

Gradually, she drifted away from the family and - unbeknown to them - began working with the small group of women who hang about near a playground in the few streets around Ipswich Town Football Club which make up the town's red light district.

"We never knew she was working as a prostitute until she went missing," said Mr Adams. "If we had known we would have done everything in our power to stop her, just like we tried to get her off drugs."

The women who worked in the same area remember how an increasingly desperate Gemma had fallen out with one of her regular clients after "blagging" a loan from him.

On 15 November, she was spotted standing near a BMW dealership at about 1.15am. When she failed to respond to text messages, her boyfriend Mr Simpson reported her missing. Seventeen days later, her naked body was found by a fishery warden in a brook at Hintlesham, seven miles from Ipswich. A week later, the body of her friend, Tania Nicol, 19, was found in the same stream.

As Gemma's parents attempt to come to terms with her troubled life and brutal death, the hunt for the killer goes on. Mr Adams said: "We can only hope that they catch them soon."

However, he added: "It's too late for us now."