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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 February 2008, 06:13 GMT
'Easy targets' for predators
By Chris Summers
BBC News

A man has been convicted of murdering five women in Ipswich. He is the latest in a long line of killers who have targeted prostitutes. Could the police be doing more to protect prostitutes and catch their killers?

1888: Jack The Ripper killed five women in Whitechapel, east London. Unsolved
1964-65: Six women killed and dumped in Hammersmith and Acton, west London. Unsolved
1975-81: Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, kills 13 women - most of them prostitutes - and is jailed for life
1993-94: Lorry driver Alun Kyte kills two women, whose bodies are discovered in Leicestershire
1999: David Smith gets life for murdering Amanda Walker, six years after being acquitted of killing Sarah Crump
2008: Steve Wright convicted of five murders in Ipswich

Marina Monti, Karen McGregor, Gail Whitehouse, Lynne Trenholme, Natalie Pearman, Julie Finlay, Vicky Glass, Tracy Wylde, Emma Caldwell. The list goes on and on.

Women, often in the grip of drug addiction, who sell their bodies and die at the hands of strangers.

In the past 20 years scores of prostitutes have been murdered in Britain and hundreds have been beaten, robbed or raped. Most of these cases remain unsolved.

The victims often have the same sad biographies, marked by drug addiction, which lead them to sell their bodies to fund their habit.

Every now and again - the Yorkshire Ripper, who killed 13 women, most of them prostitutes; and the Ipswich murders - their deaths make the headlines.

But more often than not these killings fail to register with the general public.

In 1996 a nationwide police project, Operation Enigma, identified 210 unsolved murders of women - many of them prostitutes - which had happened in the previous decade.

Two years later they identified 21 "potential clusters" and said they were reopening 70 of the cases.

'Human tragedy'

Wayne Murdock has experienced the frustration of an unsolved murder inquiry.

He was the detective in charge of the investigation into the murder of Carol Clark, a Bristol prostitute whose body was found in Sharpness Docks, Gloucestershire, in March 1993.

Mr Murdock, now retired, said: "Sometimes members of the public say, 'Oh it's only a prostitute, good riddance,' but if you started thinking like that, society might as well give up.

A sketch of one of the Jack The Ripper attacks
She was a human being first and foremost - she was not born to be a prostitute
Alice Wilson

"In Carol Clark's case I met her parents and they were very decent people and they had no idea what she was doing and it's just a human tragedy."

Often, if there are no strong leads in the first few weeks, the murder inquiry will be scaled down leaving just a detective, or a small team, who have met the victim's family and know their grief, to carry on working to obtain justice.

Mr Murdock said: "It's not like you see on television. It's not easy.

"It takes a heck of a long time, but we have got DNA now, which is a huge weapon, and I'm very confident that some of these cases will be detected and hopefully the Carol Clark case may be solved in the not too distant future."

Alice Wilson's daughter Jacqueline Gallagher was killed in Glasgow in 1996 and she said the police who investigated her murder were very good.

She told the BBC News website: "They appreciated that she was a human being first and foremost. She was not born to be a prostitute, but she developed a drug habit.

"But she did not deserve what happened to her. She had suffered 146 blows to her head and then been strangled."

Alun Kyte
Lorry driver Alun Kyte was jailed for life in 2002 for killing two prostitutes

The police eventually identified one of Jacqueline's customers as their prime suspect but the case was "not proven" in 2004.

Ms Wilson said a conviction would have given her closure, but as it is she remains in a state of emotional "limbo".

The English Collective of Prostitutes said most working girls did not report attacks by punters because they did not believe they would be treated seriously by police. A spokeswoman also claimed sometimes officers could be "brutal" in their approach.

"Police often have the attitude, 'Oh well what do you expect, it's part of the job isn't it?' if a prostitute is raped or attacked."

She said she believed the police had put huge resources into investigating the five Suffolk murders only because the case had gained much media coverage.

"And the police and the council have since got together to crack down on clients and drive the women out of the red-light district, but they are still working in less safe areas," she added.

'Hatred of women'

She said it was not clear why men attacked prostitutes. Some, like Peter Sutcliffe, claimed they were "cleaning up the streets", which the spokeswoman said echoed police rhetoric.

Victims of the Yorkshire Ripper
Peter Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering 13 women

Others were probably just misogynists who found prostitutes to be easy targets, she added.

Mrs Wilson agrees: "These people are sick. Maybe it's a hatred of women. Maybe something has happened in their own lives. Working girls are just the easiest targets because many are on heroin and they will carry on even when there is a killer on the loose because they have to feed their habit."

She said she knew the pain the parents of the Ipswich girls had suffered and added: "I am glad this man has been convicted and I pray for their mothers."

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