England Police Hunting for Serial Killer in Ipswich
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
First this. In Britain police are continuing their manhunt for an apparent serial killer who preys on prostitutes.
Five women have been killed in and around the town of Ipswich in eastern England, where the holiday season is now colored by dread.
Extra police officers have been brought in from surrounding regions to help the local force. NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.
ROB GIFFORD: Not since the search for the so-called Yorkshire Ripper in the late 1970s has Britain faced such a case.
Within just two weeks, the naked bodies of five young women have been found in and around Ipswich, a quiet town of 120,000 people in the county of Suffolk, just 70 miles northeast of London.
Police have identified four of the dead women as prostitutes who worked in Ipswich's small red light district. The other one is believed to be another prostitute missing from the same town for more than a week.
Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull(ph) is leading the inquiry. He had this warning for the prostitutes working in the area.
Detective Chief Superintendent STEWARD GULL (Ipswich): We understand largely why prostitutes need to conduct this line of business, but it's vulnerable and high risk. We issued a clear message. I'm not sure what starker message there can me at the moment. Clearly its not safe. They need to stay off the streets.
GIFFORD: Police reinforcements have been drafted in to help the small Suffolk police force in its largest-ever inquiry.
They're today examining items of clothing found in Ipswich to see if they are linked to the murders of the women.
Meanwhile, the British newspapers have gone into overdrive, dubbing the killer the Ipswich Ripper after London's notorious 19th century serial killer known as Jack the Ripper and the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, who killed 14 women and is now serving a life sentence in prison.
One tabloid has offered a reward equivalent to half a million dollars for information leading to an arrest.
Relatives of the dead women have been giving interviews to the press appealing for help. Several of them grew up in comfortable suburban homes.
Bryan Clennell's daughter Paula was the fourth victim.
Mr. BRYAN CLENELL (Father of Victim): I never knew that she lived the life that she did. And somebody out there, somebody must know somebody that is doing this. It could be somebody's father. It could be somebody's uncle. It could be anybody.
GIFFORD: The search for the killer, or killers, has also led to more general discussion in Britain about prostitution and about drug use.
Ninety five percent of Britain's street prostitutes are either heroin or crack cocaine addicts.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said in the House of Commons yesterday that there could well be lessons to be learned about the government's policy on prostitution. Soliciting on the street is illegal in Britain, though prostitutes are allowed to work indoors in their own premises.
Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has weighed in with comments about the scourge of drugs that lead to young women needing to go into prostitution to fund their habit.
One Ipswich prostitute who gave her name only as Tracy said sex workers in the city are terrified.
Ms. TRACEY (Prostitute): They're scared, like anyone would be. You know, they need help, proper help from drug teams, and I don't think they're getting that. You know, people think because they're prostitutes, oh, it doesn't matter, but it does. They're still people. They're still someone's daughter, and we need help.
GIFFORD: Local government drug teams in Ipswich say they have been trying to help the sex workers who are drug addicts so that they don't have to go out onto the streets.
Simon Alders(ph) is coordinator of the Suffolk Drug Action Team.
Mr. SIMON ALDERS (Suffolk Drug Action Team): Drug addiction is an all-consuming thing. The discomfort that someone feels when they are withdrawing from heroin is extreme, and that is one of the key reasons why people will continue to put themselves at risk.
As I say, what we are doing is we put more staff out on the streets every evening. We've increased the opening hours of all of the community drug teams, so that there is immediate access to treatment (unintelligible).
GIFFORD: Until the killer or killers are caught, women all over eastern England are on their guard. At the height of what is normally the biggest shopping season of the year, the streets of Ipswich were almost deserted last night.
Rob Gifford, NPR News.
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