Arrested man 'I'm innocent'

THE man arrested over the Ipswich killings gave an extensive media interview on Sunday in which he claimed to have been a "friend" of all the women but denied any involvement in their deaths.

THE man arrested over the Ipswich murders gave an extensive media interview on Sunday in which he claimed to have been a "friend" of all the women but denied any involvement in their deaths.

Supermarket worker Tom Stephens, who was held by Suffolk police officers yesterday on suspicion of murdering all five victims, predicted in the Sunday Mirror that he "could get arrested” over the killings.

However, he insisted: "I know that I'm innocent' and claimed the women “trusted me so much”.

The 37-year-old apparently turned to prostitutes 18 months ago after his eight-year marriage collapsed. He claimed to have been involved with "about 50” in the past year alone.

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He described two of the victims, Gemma Adams and Tania Nicol - the two he was allegedly "closest to' - as the "best-looking girls who do this in Ipswich”.

Mr Stephens apparently sobbed uncontrollably during the interview, according to Sunday Mirror journalist Michael Duffy.

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The newspaper claimed he had already been questioned four times by police.

"I could get arrested,” Mr Stephens told the newspaper.

"That is quite likely, let's not say likely, let's say possible.”

Asked why he thought he could be arrested, Mr Stephens replied: "I would have complete opportunity, the girls would have trusted me so much.

"If I had blindfolded them and taken them to the edge of a cliff and said take two steps but take three and you'll go over - they would have taken the two steps.

"From the police profiling it does look like me - white male between 25 and 40, knows the area, works strange hours. The bodies have got close to my house. I know that I'm innocent.”

Mr Stephens said he was questioned by police once in a car and three times at Ipswich police stations.

The first interview was just days after Tania Nicol was reported missing on October 30. The second interview was conducted under caution, he claimed.

Only this weekend, Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull, who is heading the police inquiry, insisted that no one had been interviewed under caution in connection with the investigation.

Mr Stephens claimed to have been a friend to all the girls, but said he was closest to Tania Nicol and Gemma Adams.

"I was close to others as well,” he said. "But I should have been there to watch over them.”

He added: "If Tania hadn't been the first, I would be out there in the street watching over her now.

"I could have been there for the others. If I was out there tonight, I could watch over a girl but I would tell her that I can't keep her safe.”

He continued: "Don't think I'm pointing out my guilt, because this is almost the worst example to give but in the case of the Yorkshire Ripper he was arrested, released and later charged. But in his case he was obviously guilty, but at that point they thought he was innocent.”

Mr Stephens described himself as "sad and lonely' and said he had made "compromises on my morals' to visit the red light district.

He insisted: "I am from a good household. I have only told my mother today. I've been a terrible son, she is very ill.”

Last week Mr Stephens spoke to BBC Radio 1 reporter Trudi Barber.

He told her: "I have known Gemma for about 18 months which is kind of about as long as I have known any of the girls.

"Tania I have known for about six months, but in the end I did get to know Tania better than I knew Gemma.

"I didn't know Anneli at all and I have only spoken to her since Tania and Gemma went missing.

"Just to say if you know anything, talk to the police or if you don't talk to the police, talk to me. And also trying to say, 'are you OK?' I don't know what I was trying to say.

"Pretty much all the girls who I didn't know before I have tried to speak to in that way.”

Mr Stephens was also apparently a regular user of an internet blog site, on which he is photographed in a variety of poses.

The pictures appear on Mr Stephens' myspace page and feature him posing with a can of custard powder, in front of a wall of stars and wearing a yellow shirt and Union Jack tie.

He gives his nickname as "The Bishop', lists his interests as "keeping fit', says he enjoys most types of music - "especially from the 80s' - and says his hero is the cartoon character Hong Kong Phooey.

He lists his occupation as "Team Leader' and, under his companies, his entry reads "Tesco' and then "from 1997 until they sack me'.

Under the "Here for' section of his details, Mr Stephens' entry reads: "dating, serious relationships, friends'.

In the Sunday Mirror interview, Mr Stephens claimed: "On paper I should be attractive, but there is something about me women do not like.”

Asked if there was anything he could do to help police, he said: "I've got to. It's not possible for me to do enough.

"If I got out of this car now and through my own initiative caught the man now, that wouldn't be enough. It wouldn't bring them back.”

Mr Stephens said two groups of officers had searched his house on November 22.

The first had worn white plastic suits, the second wore plain clothes, he said. They apparently searched his car as well.

Mr Stephens said there were "no pimps in Ipswich”.

He then added: “I suppose my actions - by the legal definition I'm nowhere near that. But by my behaviour, I'd be as close as there was to a pimp.

"I knew a lot of girls and I used to run them about.”

He continued: "But I know I am innocent and I am certain it won't go as far as me being charged. I am completely confident of that.”

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