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There is a “Dead spot” in the British media that surrounds Christmas, it is the period when very little happens and one gets the impression that in order to hold interest the media actively hunt out a disaster for Christmas. Casting back thoughts to previous years several valid stories have hit the headlines at, around or during the Christmas holiday period that bring the misfortunes of other parts of the world into our living rooms via television or the newspapers.
To recount them all would take far too long but a random sample calls to mind the Asian Tsunami, the Pennly lifeboat disaster and the aftermath of Bosscastle flooding in 2004.

This year it seems the stage for the Christmas story was set as early as the last week of October when two “Prostitutes” in an East Anglian sea port were reported as “Missing” and whatever has happened since that week one has the impression that enough importance was not given to those disappearances at the time. If it had then the lives of three more missing women in the same town practising the same profession might not have resulted in the ensuing manhunt and the murder enquiry, which is now being carried out by the Suffolk Constabulary.

It is said that Prostitution is the “Oldest profession” and the puritanical past of “Old England” has to a certain extent demonised the purveyors of this trade but in twenty first century Britain it has to be accepted that if centuries of law enforcement has not eradicated it then it is likely that it never will. Whilst the trade may be to the distaste of many “Upright” citizens it is an evil that is capable of control, management and containment. In several countries the practise is tolerated and many of those that tolerate the practise ere once part of what was known as the British Empire. In Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA [some states] prostitution is controlled, tolerated and practised yet seldom is anything heard of “The Problem” because there it is no longer a problem.

In Britain the perception is rather different, prostitution was criminalized a long time ago but it did not stop because there was a law against it, it moved its perception from legal to that grey area that exists between legal and illegal which was where the law makers that criminalized it wanted it because many of them were frequent clients of the trade.
The result was that in this country prostitution became illegal under some circumstances but not in others, all that any purveyor of the trade had to know was how to go about it to ensure legality. It is still illegal however to “Live off the immoral earnings of prostitution” a measure aimed more at the “Pimp” controlling a prostitute than the prostitute.
The trade is not restricted to the female of the species although whenever prostitution is mentioned the archetypal streetwalker may be the image that comes to mind. In recent times it has come to light that men too are increasingly willing to sell their favours to both women and other men but the most disturbing aspect of the trade is the induction of children to the practise.
The relaxation of Britain’s border/immigration control has meant that prostitutes/prostitution and sexual proclivities more in tune with the far Eastern European continent have taken root here too and are yet another dimension to a growing culture that has to be dealt with. It is not unusual to find that some girls are induced to come to Britain with promises of work only to find themselves forced into the trade. [The same can be said of boys too] Illegal immigration too is a contributory factor, the price of entry to Britain can and often does “inflate” during a journey leaving the entrant short of funds to pay which often results in the “Illegal immigrant” being sold into prostitution to clear the debt but no matter how long they work to clear what they owe they will never be free. Once upon a time we called that Slavery.
In many cases concerning prostitution it will be said that they “Do it to fund a drug habit” and in some cases it may well be true but it often begins with an insurmountable debt that they can see no way of repaying, the drugs come later, a product of the despair and the descent into a spiral of hopelessness from which there is no escape.

The murder enquiry in Suffolk centred upon the town of Ipswich is now running to seven/eight weeks and began with the police expressing concern over the disappearance of Tania Nicol on October 30thshe was 19.
On November 15th another girl disappeared, Gemma Adams aged 25. On December 2nd a man walking his dog found the naked body of Gemma Adams in a brook near Hintlesham. Concern for the safety of Tania Nicol grew with the discovery of the body and police began an underwater search. The body of Tania Nicol was found by divers at Copdock Mill near Ipswich neither girl had been sexually assaulted but both were know to be prostitutes from the Ipswich area. A third body was found in a wooded area in Nacton near Ipswich, she was later identified as Anneli Alderton; all three had similarities in the cause of death.

On December 12th Police found another body near Levington and shortly afterward a helicopter spotted a second body from the air, they were later identified as Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls.

The five dead girls join five other unsolved murders/disappearances of prostitutes in East Anglia over the past thirteen years but no link has yet been established between the Ipswich murders and the previous five.

The bodies were all found naked except for jewellery but in the case of Tania and Annali it will be difficult to gain forensic evidence as they were both immersed in water, which, may have sanitised the corpses. The suggestion is that whoever removed the clothes was well aware of forensic procedures a view further enforced by the disposal of the bodies.

On December 18th Suffolk Police made an arrest, a 37 year-old supermarket worker from Ipswich and just one day later a second arrest followed, a 48 year-old man.
The 37 year old was one a special constable, the 48 year old is described as a truck driver.
It would be easy to speculate that a special constable might have specialist knowledge that could be useful when avoiding forensic detection or that a  truck driver may have had a working relationship with a supermarket worker at some time in the past but that is all it is, speculation. The Police now have a job to do which is probably the most difficult task so far, they have to either charge a suspect or suspects with these crimes or eliminate them from the enquiry. The 37 year old by Friday morning, the 48 year old by Saturday morning and from the pictures of the forensic examination at both of the addresses where they made the arrests it is by no means certain that they will. The killer could still be out there.

One thing has certainly changed, the police perception of “The working girl” is now different and their entitlement to the protection of the law that often held the view that anything that happened to them was self inflicted has also changed. Their profession is a dangerous occupation and by their very presence their trade is the safety valve that reduces the incidence of sexually orientated crime by a factor that is unquantifiable.


Update 22nd December.

The 48-year-old man arrested on 19th December has been charged with all five murders whilst the 37-year-old man has been released upon police bail pending further investigations. The charges were laid following consultations with the Crown Prosecution Service in Suffolk.

It is thought that all five victims were drug users and that one was three months pregnant. On the streets of Ipswich there was a shadowy figure that the girls referred to as “Uncle” It is not clear whether this pseudonym applied to the 37 year old or the man that has been charged with the murders. There have been no further attacks on Ipswich prostitutes since the arrests of these two men. Parallels have been drawn between these five murders and the “Yorkshire Ripper” case of Peter Sutciffe and also the “Jack the Ripper” case of the late 1800’s but this case did not involve the mutilations of those past cases, serious though they were. The Suffolk police and in particular Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull are to be commended for their diligence in bringing the investigation to conclusion quickly.


Posted: December 20, 2006 ,   Modified: December 22, 2006

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