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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 09:58 GMT
Town gripped by shock and fear
By Chris Summers
BBC News

Police and a sign for Ipswich
Police have taken up a heavy presence in Ipswich

When the bodies of five women turn up in the space of 10 days, it is bound to send a shudder of fear through any town.

All five were working as prostitutes but the shock and anxiety has spread to the wider community in Ipswich.

"Every woman is now asking themselves the same question - what if he runs out of prostitutes and starts attacking other women?" said Jean, who works in a petrol station near the Portman Road red light district.

Female staff working late shifts at the station have been handed attack alarms by managers, who also have also been making sure they get lifts home.

Working girls often popped into the 24-hour garage but Helen, another cashier, said: "We've seen a lot less of them recently. I hope they are heeding the warnings to stay indoors."

Sergeant Murray Osman, on patrol in nearby Handford Road, said: "Many of the working girls have taken notice of the press appeals we've made and are staying off the streets. That's good news."

While the streets of Ipswich were largely deserted after dark, there was a sizeable police presence.

Everywhere were uniformed officers in pairs, police vehicles and even unmarked cars - single male drivers were stopped and their details checked.

"We have got reassurance patrols out tonight, not just for the girls but also for the residents. They will be on duty throughout the night," said Sgt Osman, whose older brother Russell played alongside Terry Butcher at the heart of the town's illustrious football team in the early 1980s.

For years, that has been Ipswich's claim to fame - a country town which, under Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, punched above its weight in world football.

Anneli Alderton, Gemma Adams and Tania Nicol
The bodies of three women have been found in Ipswich

Sadly the town is making headlines for very different reasons now.

"Hunt for the Suffolk Strangler" screams the headline of the Ipswich Evening Star newspaper, which appeared to have sold out in many of the shops.

"It's terrible what's going on," said Ben, who has lived in Ipswich all his life. "It's not the sort of thing you want Ipswich to be known for."

Of his girlfriend, Paula, who stood beside him, he said protectively: "She's not allowed out on her own."

She said: "It's quite scary. It would be good if they could catch him as soon as possible."

Ben said: "I'm not a psychologist but it seems that, with the last two girls they've found, he's almost announcing to everybody what he has done.

"One of them was left only a few feet from the road."

The backstreets around Portman Road have been notorious for years for kerb-crawlers, but on Tuesday night there was no sign of women working on the streets.

Youth concern

At a youth club in the town centre, teenagers Teila Fair and Louie Barrett had little sympathy with the prostitutes.

Teila, 16, said the murders had come as a shock and had reminded her and her friends of the terrible consequences of dabbling in drugs.

Every woman is now asking themselves the same question - what if he runs out of prostitutes and starts attacking other women?
Jean, cashier

Teila lives in Nacton where the body of Anneli Alderton was found on Sunday, and she said her parents were very worried about her going out.

She said: "They're going to pick me up, but I wish the buses ran later because there's no way we can afford taxis."

Louis, also 16, said there were fewer people at the youth club this week. "Some girls have left early and other just didn't come at all.

"I guess they were scared."

Busy nightlife

But some pubs and restaurants were far from empty. In fact, the town looked quite busy for a Tuesday night and many women had ventured out.

I did not see a single woman walking alone - all were walking in pairs, with boyfriends or in larger groups.

Rebecca Wesson, from Redditch, and Elisabeth Radocha, from Amsterdam, were visiting Ipswich on a work trip.

They were being chaperoned by workmates Greg Wells and Mandeep Chahal.

"We've been making sure they are picked up and dropped off at their hotel. You have to be careful," said Mr Chahal.

Ms Radocha said: "I've heard the news. It's a bit shocking. I definitely wouldn't go out alone."

Mr Wells said: "There are definitely fewer people out tonight than there were last Tuesday night."

Sgt Osman said that with Christmas round the corner there were lots of people going out and so police were offering advice for women.

"People should plan their routes in advance and, if you are going out in a group, make sure you come home as a group."

The people of Ipswich are clearly anxious that the serial killer in their midst is caught soon.

Ben said: "I just hope the police can catch the bastard who's doing it as soon as possible."

Map showing where bodies were found
Gemma Adams: Went missing on 15 November, body found by a stream near Hintlesham on 2 December
Tania Nicol: Disappeared on 30 October, body discovered 8 December in Copdock
Anneli Alderton: Body discovered in Nacton on 10 December
Paula Clennell: Body thought to be hers discovered in Levington on 11 December
Annette Nicholls: Body thought to be hers found in Levington on 11 December

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