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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 10:00 GMT
Community faces unwanted glare
As the world's media turns its spotlight on Ipswich, BBC journalist Tim Fenton - who was brought up in the Suffolk town and still lives a few miles from its centre - reflects on the community facing an unwanted glare after the murders of five prostitutes.

Police in Ipswich
The media spotlight has fallen on Ipswich after the murders

It's not the sort of thing that should happen in sleepy Suffolk. That'll be one of the first angles the news editors go for, once (God willing) the grim discoveries no longer come almost daily.

In fact, of course, Ipswich is much like any town anywhere. It's full of people, strangers, friends and families - their identities only partly shaped by their shared geography.

Ipswich is not a fashionable place.

It's had more than its share of listings among Britain's "crap towns". It's often compared unfavourably to the more middle-class, more photogenic Norwich.

And when the London feature writers come to Suffolk they don't pause long in Ipswich on their way to Aldeburgh and Southwold.

But that antipathy has helped build a tight, sometimes defensive sense of loyalty. There are few people here over 40 who cannot tell you where they were when Roger Osborne scored the winning goal in the 1978 FA Cup final.

Ready sympathy

With a population of about 140,000, Ipswich is big enough to be a proper town but not so big as to feel impersonal. It's noticeable that the TV crews have had little problem finding people who knew and will talk about the murdered women.

The children know something very bad has happened and find it odd to see places they recognise on national television

Many remember them as schoolgirls or neighbours and offer the cameras personal recollections. There's ready sympathy for the addictions that drove them to sell their bodies and risk their lives. I wonder if that would be true in a big city.

Everyone is affected. After the fourth and fifth bodies were discovered I decided I would walk the children round the corner for the evening performance of their Christmas play rather than let my wife walk home alone.

A teacher smiled at the children but, with jaw clenched, muttered "isn't it dreadful?" to me. The show went on, though the scene in which Snow White was strangled made one or two of the watching parents shift uneasily in their plastic stacking chairs.

The children know something very bad has happened and find it odd to see places they recognise on national television. But they're still too young to let anything seriously derail the run-up to Christmas.

Accessible area

My wife was a student in Manchester at the time of the Yorkshire Ripper murders and was given a rape alarm by the student union. For the first time since then, she's dug it out of her sock drawer and put it back in her bag.

BBC reporter Tim Fenton
These are our places and we don't want them on the news

The red light area is on the edge of the town centre, fairly accessible from the A12 and A14.

When I worked as a reporter in Ipswich, going through the overnight calls with the police press officer every morning, it was generally believed the prostitutes' clients came from other towns.

The theory was that if they were going to be charged and appear in a local paper, they'd rather it wasn't their own. Even if the evidence points towards it, people will hope the killer is not from Ipswich.

From where we live it's no more than a 20-minute drive to any of the crime scenes.

Hintlesham is home to the posh hotel where we spent our wedding night.

In the summer, we had a lovely day sailing with friends from Levington.

We thought about buying a house in Copdock but worried about it being too close to the main road.

My parents live close to Nacton.

These are our places and we don't want them on the news.

Local villagers express fear over Suffolk murders


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