Ipswich murder 10 years on: Father of Tania Nicol reveals how he found peace after her death
Ten years ago today police were desperately searching for Tania Nicol, not knowing she had become the first of Steve Wright’s five murder victims.
The 19-year-old’s father Jim Duell told Colin Adwent how he has managed to live with his loss, and faith plays a big part.
His religious beliefs sustained him through the grief of losing his daughter in 2006 and enabled him to find a way to come to terms with the way the her life was taken at such a cruelly young age.
Tania was last seen around the area of Handford Road shortly after 11pm on October 30, 2006, probably getting into Steve Wright’s dark blue Ford Mondeo. Minutes earlier she was captured on CCTV walking past Sainsbury’s petrol station in London Road,
Tania was the first, and the youngest, of the five sex workers to be killed by 48-year-old Wright who became known as the Suffolk Strangler.
Her body was the second to be found following that of Gemma Adams, 25, who disappeared two weeks later, on November 15.
Tania was discovered in a river in Copdock nearly six weeks after she went missing.
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Mr Duell said he was unaware his daughter had become one of Ipswich’s sex workers. However, he knew Tania was involved with drugs – a common theme blighting the lives of all Wright’s victims.
Mr Duell last saw the teenager a week or so before Wright took her away. The 69-year-old, of Stone Lodge Lane West, Ipswich, said: “The last time I saw Tania was when she came around to me and asked me for a lift to her mum’s. We were talking like mates. It was ok and it was good, but I think the drugs had made her sort of ... (his voice tails off)
“I had no idea what she was doing. I knew she was taking drugs, but we didn’t know she was on the streets.
“I had the idea she was going out with her mates like all teenagers do in the town.
“When you see people gradually go downhill little bit, by little bit, you don’t notice it so much.
“To me she seemed ok. When she got out of the car and walked to the house she never turned around and waved. She just walked straight inside.
“I looked at her and watched her walk in, and that’s the last time I saw her.”
“Tania was a sensitive and caring person. She was popular at school. She was content until she met a boyfriend who smoked marijuana and that was when she was introduced to drugs.
“Apart from that she was just like any other girl going through the motions of growing up. She meant what all daughters mean to their father. We love them more than we really know.
“If they mess up we are there for them. We are there to guide them as best we can. Nobody gets a perfect life. We all have our problems and we help them in their situations.”
Mr Duell became a Christian around 15 years ago. He retains the faith which has comforted him.
He said: “You get a strength. When she went missing I was caving in mentally. I didn’t know where she was.
“The worst bit was not knowing where she was and thinking the worst. I thought ‘something serious is happening here’. She always phoned her mother and she hadn’t.”
In the aftermath of his daughter’s death the retired lorry driver and taxi driver said he withdrew into his flat.
“I didn’t even want to walk out of here because I didn’t want to face anybody. That was a bad three weeks for me.
“Christmas (2006) I just sat in this room staring into space. I was in that worried and helpless state. But I came out of that helplessness. When I walked into the chapel, Tania was in a coffin and I could feel a sense of peace coming from it. To me that meant she was in a place of peace.”
In the weeks that followed his daughter’s murder, Mr Duell said he was able to regain strength through his religious beliefs and began to rebuild his life.
Now he lives with things how they are, rather than how they could have been.
Mr Duell said: “I just live it as it is.
“Every so often I will have a little pity-party for a couple of minutes, but life goes on.”
Mr Duell believes he has managed to come to terms with the pain of what happened.
“It seems to get less and less as the years go on. It becomes lighter. If it doesn’t get lighter you are just going downhill into a pit.”
Although he may have attained a piece of mind, Tania is still in his thoughts and he visits her place of rest. Mr Duell said: “I go to Tania’s grave, say hello and have a little talk.”
When Jim Duell speaks there is no trace of bitterness towards Steve Wright, although noticeably he does not use his name.
Any residual feelings he has about what happened remain private. Forgiveness is very much part of his Christian ethic.
Mr Duell said: “I actually forgave the murderer. I forgive him. If I hadn’t have forgiven him I would have hated him for the rest of my life and I would have been another victim.
“I have not got any feeling towards him at all. He’s obviously not in his right mind.
“In a way he is to be pitied. He is the one who has murdered those five girls. He’s become a victim of what he has done and he’s lost his life being banged up all the time.”
How Tania’s life changed
Tania Nicol’s life had once been full of promise.
A strikingly good looking girl with a beautiful smile, she had harboured ambitions of becoming a hairdresser and leading a happy, normal life.
Tragically drugs became her downfall after she began smoking cannabis before moving on to crack cocaine and heroin.
Tania’s murder was followed by those of Gemma Adams, 25, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29.
Paula and Annette were mothers, as was Anneli who was pregnant with her second child at the time when Steve Wright took her life.
Brighton-born Tania moved to Ipswich with her parents when she was a baby.
She grew up in the Pinewood area and went to Gusford Primary and then Chantry High.
When her mother and father separated, she lived with her brother Arron and her mother Kerry in Woolverstone Close.
After leaving school Tania worked as chambermaid and a hairdresser. She also sold Avon.
However, Tania’s dreams were destroyed by drugs, a common theme among the other working girls.
She began to lie about what she was doing for a living and became argumentative, refusing to acknowledge she had a problem.
The last positive sighting of Tania was at 11.02pm on Monday, October 30, 2006, in London Road.
Her mother reported her missing the following day at 10.45pm.
Tania’s body was found by a police dive team in Belstead Brook at Copdock Mill, near HG Gladwell and Sons animal feed plant on the old A12 on Friday, December 8, six days after Gemma Adams body was found in the same stream two miles away.
Tomorrow: Steve Wright’s father Conrad tells what life has been like for him over the past 10 years.