Police admit serial killer fears

DETECTIVES investigating the horrific deaths of three prostitutes and the disappearance of two further vice girls admit it is possible they are hunting a serial killer who may live locally.

DETECTIVES investigating the horrific deaths of three prostitutes and the disappearance of two further vice girls admit it is possible they are hunting a serial killer who may live locally.

The news came as Suffolk's Assistant Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer issued an urgent plea to prostitutes to stay off the streets in Ipswich, warning if they went out alone at night they were “putting themselves in danger”.

Police are growing increasingly concerned for the safety of 24-year-old mother Paula Clennell who works as a prostitute in Ipswich and has not made contact with friends or family since Sunday night.

And it emerged last night a fifth prostitute, Annette Nicolls, 29, has not been seen or heard from since December 3 or 4. She is also known to work as a prostitute in Ipswich.

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She is described as white, about 5ft3ins tall, of slim build, with shoulder-length brown wavy hair.

At a press conference yesterday, detectives confirmed the body of a young woman discovered in woodland on Sunday in the village of Nacton, near Amberfield School, was that of a 24-year-old prostitute.

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It is understood to be that of Anneli Alderton, who has links with Ipswich but had been living in Colchester.

The woman had not been reported missing to police and her identity will not officially be made public until formal identification has taken place.

The body, which was not found in water, remained at the scene under a tent yesterday while forensic experts and scenes of crime officers carried out tests.

It was later transferred to Ipswich Hospital where a post-mortem examination was due be carried out.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull, Suffolk Constabulary's head of crime management, admitted the find of the third body had been a “deeply disturbing development”.

Although at this stage police are not formerly linking the latest death with the murders of Gemma Adams and Tania Nicol, Det Ch Supt Gull said the “striking similarities” of the cases spoke for themselves.

“Yes, it's in the forefront of our minds we are looking for one perpetrator if not more. We could be looking for a serial killer,” he said.

“He might be local, he may be from away. We can draw a number of conclusions from where the bodies have been deposited.

“The A14 is the main arterial route through the county. However, Gemma and Tania were dumped in Belstead Brook which is some distance off the A14. But we are keeping an open mind.”

When asked by the media, he said there were about 400 registered sex offenders in Suffolk.

Police admitted they were vigorously pursuing hundreds of leads but Det Ch Supt Gull said he was not in a position to be able to share the forensic evidence they had secured so far because they were continuing to pursue this with experts. He also said no arrests had been made at this stage.

Despite the fact there was no sign of a sexual assault on either Miss Adams' or Miss Nicol's bodies, Det Ch Supt Gull admitted last night it was possible they could have had sex with their killer before being murdered.

“It's conceivable they did have sex prior to death,” he said.

Further tests and toxicology examinations are currently being carried out to establish how they both died and the results of these could be several weeks.

Police have set up a third incident room to investigate the latest death. This team will work closely with the other two investigating the murders of Miss Nicol and Miss Adams.

Their work will be overseen by Detective Superintendent Andy Henwood and Assistant Chief Constable Cheer.

Miss Clennell was reported missing by a friend as a result of media coverage. She contacted a friend on Sunday night at 10.30pm because she was looking for a place to stay but has not been heard from since. Police officers are currently checking addresses in Ipswich, where she was known to frequent, to try and find out where she is.

“Until she makes contact with us or somebody tells us she is alive and well, clearly we are concerned. She's female, she works as a prostitute,” said Det Ch Supt Gull.

Miss Clennell is described as white, about 5ft7ins tall, of medium build, with shoulder-length mousey hair, blue eyes and a spotty complexion.

When she was last seen she was wearing blue jeans, a beige zip-up jacket with fur, a black beanie hat and trainers.

Det Ch Supt Gull said: “There could be an innocent explanation as to why these girls are missing. We know, for example, that Paula is of no fixed address and moves between addresses regularly.

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

Between 30 and 40 prostitutes are believed to work in Ipswich's red light district but the number has greatly reduced since Miss Nicol disappeared on October 30.

In a personal appeal to those vice girls yesterday, Assistant Chief Constable Cheer said: “Your welfare is my priority at this time.

“My message to you is simple - stay off the streets. If you are out alone at night, you are putting yourself in danger.

“I have taken a decision that we are not conducting any enforcement in the red light district at the moment.

“It's about building trust and patterns. The most important thing is to catch the person doing this.

“We have had extra patrols down there since Tania went missing which have been increased.

“We are coming up to the party season and there will be groups of young women going out. You have really got to look after each other. Plan how you are going to get there. Whatever happens on your night out don't leave your friends on their own.”

Det Ch Supt Gull said he was aware of various unsolved murder cases involving prostitutes and said they remained a line of enquiry.

“We will look at outstanding murders but we are not formerly linking these three cases with any historic enquiries,” he said.

“I am not linking these current finds with the death of Vicky Hall. That is subject to significant ongoing review. It remains an unsolved case.”

Police are still appealing for members of the public, prostitutes and their clients to contact them with any information that could help them with the enquiry.

Anyone working in the red light district who has information is asked to call 07764 210572 and ask for Assistant Chief Constable Cheer personally.

Det Ch Supt Gull said the best thing for clients of Miss Adams and Miss Nicol's to do was contact police before officers contacted them.

“We have a number of investigative techniques available to us. Rather than be embarrassed and get a knock on the door from us they should contact us first,” he added.

Anyone with information should call Suffolk police on 01473 613500 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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