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
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits