Jack the Ripper fears descend on UK

Police ratcheted up a search for two missing prostitutes on Tuesday as fears grew that a “ripper”-style serial killer is at large in a quiet English town where three sex workers have already died.

Detectives begged prostitutes and their clients for information in the port town of Ipswich on the east coast, where two sex workers have been murdered and another has been found dead.

The murders have revived fears of the horrors of Jack the Ripper, the infamous 19th-century murderer of east London prostitutes.

They have also sparked grisly memories of Peter Sutcliffe, the “Yorkshire Ripper”, who preyed on prostitutes and murdered 13 women and attacked seven others between 1975 and 1980.

Police patrolled Ipswich’s red-light district in cars and on foot overnight, with Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull, who is heading the inquiry, saying that it was possible there was a serial killer on the loose.

Officers are worried about Paula Clennell (24), who has not been seen since Saturday but spoke to a friend Sunday, and Annette Nicholls (29), who has not been seen since December 4.

There is no trace of them despite a big media appeal. The case has dominated national newspapers and broadcasters.

“Both of these girls were reported missing as a result of the inquiry. There could be an innocent explanation,” said Gull.

“However, in the current climate we are concerned for their welfare and are making urgent inquiries to contact them.”

He added that information from prostitutes and their clients could be crucial to catching the killer.
Police have vowed to overlook soliciting offences in the hunt for the murderer.

“Street workers and the men who go with prostitutes probably hold the key,” he said.

“No matter how insignificant the information they might have, they need to talk to us. We have had a tremendous response thus far from street workers. Some limited contact from punters.”

The two murdered women—Gemma Adams (25) and 19-year-old Tania Nicol—went missing in the red-light district of Ipswich on November 15 and October 30 respectively.

Adams’s naked body was found in a brook at nearby Hintlesham on December 2, while Nicol’s corpse, also naked, was discovered on Friday at Copdock, in the same stretch of water about 3km away. Neither had been sexually assaulted.

The naked corpse of a third prostitute (24) was found on Sunday in a woodland at nearby Nacton.

About 30 prostitutes are thought to operate in Ipswich and a few were still walking the streets overnight.

“They’re scared like anyone would be,” sex worker Tracy told BBC radio.

Ipswich, about 80km north-east of London, is normally a quiet town and has never before witnessed a murder inquiry on such a scale. It has a population of about 140 000 and is the capital of Suffolk county.

The red-light district runs alongside the Portman Road stadium, home of Ipswich Town Football Club.—AFP

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