Wright's passion for cleanliness hid sinister secret

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The Independent Online

When the residents of London Road, Ipswich, noticed their new neighbour's penchant for cleaning his Ford Mondeo, they thought nothing of it.

His fastidious cleanliness fitted in with the image of a quiet, unassuming, middle-aged man. His only indulgence appeared to be a regular game of golf and the odd pint. They had no idea Steve Wright's habits had a far more sinister motive, that he was attempting to wipe out the evidence of his nights of murder.

Certainly, when Wright moved to the flat in the Edwardian terrace, he gave little clue of his turbulent past and problems with depression, debt and gambling. Only the local prostitutes knew he lived a double life, for when his partner, Pamela, worked night shifts Wright paid for sex.

Wright, whose father, Conrad, was an RAF regiment corporal, was born on 24 April 1958 in West Beckham, Norfolk, and grew up with his older brother, David, and younger sisters Tina and Jeanette, at bases in Singapore and Malta. After his parents separated and his mother, Patricia, went to America, his father remarried when Wright was 10, moved to Felixstowe and had two more children, Keith and Natalie. Wright left school with no qualifications and joined the Merchant Navy. At 19, Wright married Angela, who was 17. They had a son but the marriage lasted just four years. In his mid-twenties, he was a steward on the QE2 , and began visiting massage parlours for sex.

During his six years on the liner, he met his second wife, Diane Cole. They married in 1987, moved to Essex and he worked in a pub in Norwich. She said the marriage was "a total disaster"; it lasted less than a year. By 1989, now a pub manager in Chislehurst, Wright met Sarah Whiteley, a barmaid and they moved to run a bar in Plumstead. In 1992, his second child, a daughter, was born but, Ms Whiteley told a newspaper, their relationship was doomed. Wright was sacked for drinking and gambling, they separated and he sent her a note, claiming that he had lost everything and planned to kill himself.

By the mid-1990s, he was a labourer in Felixstowe, Suffolk, near the home of his father and stepmother. He also lived in Thailand for a while. His half-brother, Keith, said this was when he sank to his lowest and depression took hold. "I think everything got to him," said Keith. "He got with some girl who ended up scamming him for everything he had. He got himself into a lot of debt, I suppose he couldn't find a way out. Everything got to him."

With debts of up to £30,000, his stepmother, Valerie, said, he was declared bankrupt. Then eight years ago, back in Felixstowe, he met Pamela, also called Wright, at a bingo hall. But in 2002, as a hotel barman, he was convicted of stealing £84 from the till. It was a minor offence but it was his undoing, because police had a sample of his DNA.

In 2004, the couple moved to Ipswich and he took a day job as a forklift truck driver and she began night work at a call centre. Two years later, Wright celebrated his 48th birthday at Uncle Tom's Cabin, a pub where he was known as a shy, quiet regular. "Steve would never say much. You never knew what he was thinking," said another regular, Billy Austin. "If you asked 50 people around here before last December if they knew Steve Wright, no one would've said yes. Now everybody knows his name."