BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 15:01 GMT
How police coped with five murders
What started out as a missing person report back in November 2006 was to become Suffolk police's biggest murder investigation.

Police divers searching Belstead Brook, near Ipswich in  December 2006
Police divers were sent in after Gemma Adams was found

Usually, Suffolk police encounter about six murders a year.

But during 10 days in December 2006, they were faced with the discovery of five murdered women and an unrelated fatal shooting of a man at a nightclub in Ipswich.

The discovery of Gemma Adams's body on 2 December 2006, and the subsequent discoveries of Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29, prompted a huge local police operation, with contributions from almost every other police force, doubling the staffing to 600 officers.

During the investigation, 134 specialist officers from seven forces carried out 176 separate searches totalling 13,000 hours of work.

With each isolated crime scene, the shrubs and other debris had to be cleared by hand to allow better access while ensuring no evidence was damaged or destroyed.

For example, in Nacton, where Anneli Alderton was found, officers spent the best part of a month collecting and cataloguing every find.

Police said the longest fingertip search took 27 officers seven days in poor weather.

Police divers from Norwich were deployed after Gemma Adams's body was discovered in a brook, and they consequently discovered Tania Nicol's remains in the same area. In all, the divers spent 14 days searching the small stream.

300 Suffolk police staff
300 extra staff from 40 forces
134 specialist officers from Suffolk and six other forces
176 separate searches, totalling 13,000 hours
13,000 calls from the public
1,570 homes visited in house-to-house inquiries
6,650 statements
100 staff examining CCTV footage
7,000 CCTV images
6,500 other exhibits
Source: Suffolk Police

Officers also searched Steve Wright's house, his car, areas frequented by prostitutes, 75 tonnes of rubbish at dumps, clothing banks and recycling centres.

The police took 6,650 statements and had 13,000 calls from the public.

One of the most labour-intensive areas of investigation was the CCTV footage taken from cameras in Ipswich and surrounding county roads.

Initially, each police murder team began examining its own CCTV footage, but when the similarities of the five murders had become apparent, 100 officers were assembled to examine all the footage.

The 7,000 exhibits they seized, ranging from video tapes to entire CCTV systems, contained hundreds of hours of footage.

It was through this footage, parts of which were shown to the jury, often poor quality, black and white, and jerky, that police pieced together journeys which Wright's car made.

Search of Steve Wright's house, Ipswich
Police conducted 176 searches, totalling 13,000 hours

Automatic number plate recognition picked him up in one instance, while other footage from near the Ipswich Town football club showed a car with a Christmas tree-shaped air freshener hanging from its rear view mirror.

The images showed the car had an unusually highly placed tax disc - which police deduced was Wright's car.

Other footage showed his car driving repeatedly round the block in an area where prostitutes worked, and one sequence showed a woman, believed to be Tania Nicol, getting into his car.

During the trial, jurors were told that Wright's car was twice captured by security cameras on the night Miss Alderton disappeared.

His Ford Mondeo was picked up in the red-light district of Ipswich at 2318 on 3 December and it was seen again heading out of Ipswich at 0141 on 4 December.

The prosecution said Wright was a man with the opportunity - his partner worked night shifts, transport and local knowledge to have killed the women.

Their bodies were found in areas he was familiar with from his jobs.

But Wright did not deny that he used prostitutes, and that he had sex with four of the five women and had picked up the fifth in his car, but decided not to have sex with her.

His defence had argued that the presence of his DNA on their bodies or fibres from his car, clothing and house did not mean he killed them.

Heavy duty gloves belonging to Wright were found to have Paula Clennell's DNA on them, and blood from her and Annette Nicholls was found on a reflective jacket - a scenario the prosecution said showed Wright had worn the gloves when he had carried their bodies to dispose of them.

Despite the huge police operation, some evidence still eluded detectives. Extensive searches have failed to turn up any of the murdered women's clothing.

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific