/ 22 December 2006

Man charged with UK prostitute murders

A man is due to appear in court on Friday charged with murdering five prostitutes in eastern England in less than two months, in a case that has gripped Britain.

Steven Wright is accused of killing Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls, whose naked bodies were found dumped at rural locations round the town of Ipswich in the county of Suffolk.

The 48-year-old, in police custody after being arrested on Tuesday and reported by British media to be a forklift truck driver, will appear before Ipswich Magistrates’ Court.

”Wright, from Ipswich, has been charged with the murder of all five women,” Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull told a news conference at Suffolk police headquarters late on Thursday.

Michael Crimp, senior prosecutor for the Suffolk Crown Prosecution Service, said: ”This evening [Thursday] we have made the decision that there is sufficient evidence and authorised that Wright … should be charged.”

He cautioned the media — which has scrutinised every twist and turn of the investigation on television, online and in newspapers — to take care when reporting the case.

”Steven Wright stands accused of these offences and has the right to a fair trial before a jury,” Crimp said.

The case has evoked memories of Jack the Ripper, the London prostitute killer who was never found, and Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper, who killed 13 women, mainly prostitutes, in northern England between 1975 and 1980.

A second man, who had been questioned by police since Monday, was released on police bail pending further inquiries. He has been named by British media as 37-year-old supermarket worker Tom Stephens. The police declined to give his identity.

The developments followed a huge police investigation that gathered momentum with the discovery of each body.

Detectives launched the investigation on December 2 when 25-year-old Adams’s body was found in a stream. The body of 19-year-old Nicol — last seen on October 30 and the first to be reported missing — was discovered in the same stream on December 8.

The other three bodies were found over the next four days.

Alderton, a 24-year-old who was three months pregnant, was asphyxiated and Clennell, also 24, was killed by ”compression to the neck”, authorities said. Twenty-nine-year-old Nicholls was the fifth victim. All five were drug users. — Reuters