Ipswich victim's family launches appeal for terminally ill children

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During Brian Adams's darkest moments, he tries to focus on memories of his daughter before drugs and prostitution took her away. The businessman, 53, clings to such images as he struggles to come to terms with the death of Gemma, one of five prostitutes killed in Suffolk in November.

Mr Adams is trying to provide a positive legacy for his daughter by creating a charity appeal in her memory. He and his wife, Gail, 54, are raising money for terminally ill children on Gemma's behalf.

In the five weeks since his 25-year-old daughter's naked body was found in a brook at Hintlesham, near Ipswich, Mr Adams has had to contemplate how the intelligent, animated girl who loved horse riding and the Brownies while growing up in the comfortable suburb of Kesgrave could meet such a terrible end.

"She was a beautiful, talented, bubbly, outgoing, feisty individual until she fell in with the wrong crowd, made the wrong decisions," he said.

"I cope with it by thinking about Gemma when she was OK. She did actually say to me once that when she was on heroin she didn't care about anything but when she was not on heroin she did care. I know she loved us."

When they were told she was dead, Mr and Mrs Adams were already reeling from the news that, at the time she dissappeared on 15 November, their daughter was working as a prostitute.

"It was horrifying. For the first two weeks we were almost paralysed, wondering what was going to happen next. After about a fortnight, we decided this was just bad, bad, bad and we really wanted to turn the negative into a positive."

As Mr Adams began reading through the tributes to his daughter, he was reminded of how she had always gravitated towards those in need. "Friends on the website said how she had helped them get through difficult times at home or when they had lost their jobs," he said.

Such testimonies increased his determination that his daughter should be remembered for her kindness rather than the sordid world that sucked her in, so he and his wife decided to launch an appeal to raise money for terminally ill children on her behalf.

"We were at the centre of a media spotlight and we decided we could use that for something good. We also want Gemma to be remembered for being part of fund raising, as a tribute to her.

"If she had been allowed to grow to full adulthood, I know she would have been a wonderful human being who would have helped society."

At first, the family hoped to raise £500 for Ipswich's Children's Hospice. The charity had been struggling since losing a lottery grant and had to make 22 staff redundant last year, he said. They launched their appeal in the East Anglian Daily Times on Boxing Day. Within four days, it had raised almost £4,000. "We were astounded. We didn't have any idea how the take up would go. We didn't know if people would be interested," Mr Adams said.

One of her teachers said Gemma was "an ordinary, intelligent girl from a nice family". While at Kesgrave High School, she was not particularly academic, but was popular and sharp-witted, a real raconteur, in the words of her father. But drugs led to a downward spiral.

For a while, she fought the grip of addiction, 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 breaks and taking too many days off and she was sacked.

Her parents took her to see doctors and the community drug rehabilitation team, but all attempts to wean her off heroin failed. Gradually, she drifted away from the family and joined the small group of women who work the red light district around Ipswich Town Football Club.

Melanie Chew, of East Anglia's Children's Hospices, said: "Donations made to the appeal will provide care for 'life-limited' children throughout Suffolk and North Essex, both in their own homes and at our Children's Hospice in Ipswich."

Donations can be made via www.justgiving.com/gemmasgift or by calling 01473 324847.

* Steve Wright, 48, of Ipswich, has been charged with the murders of Miss Adams, Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29. He is due to appear before Ipswich Crown Court today.