Victim 5: Annette Nicholls: 'Overnight, she got into heroin and it changed her'

Four years ago, Annette Nicholls seemed to be heading for a career of which she could feel justifiably proud.

She had completed a four-year beautician's course at Suffolk College in Ipswich and, as her many friends in the town attested yesterday, was set on a path towards her own business.

Annette was often to be found in her friends' homes, helping with make-up, offering advice and providing treatments to women who wanted a complexion and long brown hair like hers. It was some achievement for a young woman, then 25, who was bringing up a young son, Farron, single-handedly.

Then, virtually overnight, heroin had her in its grip. No one is quite sure how it started - some say that boyfriends were an influence - but her habit left her in dire need of money to maintain her supply. Within a few months she was plying her trade in Ipswich's red-light district.

Last night, it seemed that Annette had paid for this decision with her life, when police officers found two bodies in the Levington district in Ipswich.

If, as seems likely, she was attacked by the town's serial killer, she is unlikely to have stood a chance: the slight 29-year-old was just 5ft 3in. Though the body has not been formally identified detectives say they "fear the worst" for Annette.

Her cousin Tanya Nicholls, 37, is haunted by the thought that she did not do more to make Netty, as Annette was known, give up her risky work.

"She used to be such an absolutely outstanding person with the most lovely personality," Tanya said yesterday. "She was stunningly beautiful inside and out. I was so proud of her when she passed her course.

"But then almost overnight she got into heroin and it changed her. It was a bit like flicking a light switch."

Many friends say that it was not in Annette's character to take risks with her personal safety. She was regarded as someone who was extremely organised. Her house was immaculate, and her car was always taxed and insured.

Some chart her life's descent into chaos from the day after she left her small, semi-detached council house on Ipswich's Greenwich estate, where she raised Farron - who is now eight - during his pre-school years.

Annette had evidently been encouraged by the council to move into a bigger, housing association home on the smart new Ravenwood estate nearby. The move coincided with Annette asking her mother, Rosemary (who is known locally as Kim), to play a more substantial role in caring for Farron. Her mother, with whom friends say Annette was once extremely close, readily agreed.

Her cousin saw her about three weeks ago, touting for business for kerb-crawlers in West End Road on the edge of the red-light area - yards from the place where one murder victim, Gemma Adams, was last seen alive on 15 November.

"She saw me riding past on a bike at around midnight and called me over to say, 'Hello'," Tanya said. "I was really worried for her because it was after the two other girls, Gemma and Tania, had been reported missing.

"But she didn't want to stop working. She just told me she was OK. The only other thing she said was, 'Don't tell anyone that you saw me here'. Now I just wish that I had picked her up and dragged her home."

Annette was understood to have been staying with a man in Ipswich when she failed to return to his house after going out to sell sex. Detectives say she was last seen at 9.50pm on Tuesday last week in Norwich Road, Ipswich, near the town's red-light area. She was reported missing by her family on Monday after they became worried about the murders.

After last night's discovery, Annette's mother was being comforted at her home in Ipswich and was too upset to comment.

Tanya said: "I don't know if she knew about Annette's prostitution. The pair of them used to be ever so close before she went off the rails, but she would never have approved of her being a prostitute."

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn