Detectives hunting a serial killer who preys on prostitutes discovered two more bodies on Tuesday, bringing to five the number of women found dead this month.
The bodies have not been identified, but the detective leading the investigation said it was likely they were those of Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell, two Ipswich prostitutes who had been missing for days.
"We can only fear the worst," said Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull of Suffolk police. "The natural assumption is that these are the two missing women." A team of detectives was already probing the death of three women whose naked bodies were found a few miles (kilometers) apart in rural eastern England. One body was found in a stream, another in a pond and a third in woods close to a road.
The two bodies discovered Tuesday afternoon were lying near Levington, a village about 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of Ipswich. The corpses of the five dead women have all been found within a few miles (kilometers) of Ipswich.
The killing has stirred memories of the so-called Yorkshire Ripper, one of Britain's worst serial killers. Peter Sutcliffe admitted killing 13 women, mostly prostitutes, during the 1970s. He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 30 years in prison. Ipswich's afternoon newspaper has already dubbed the prostitutes' killer "the Suffolk Strangler."
Police said they suspected a serial killer in the Suffolk cases, but weren't ruling out multiple perpetrators. Police said there was also no indication that the potential killer or killers were targeting women other than prostitutes.
The three earlier victims have been identified as Gemma Adams, 25, whose body was found December 2; Tania Nicol, 19, whose body was found Friday; and 24-year-old Anneli Alderton, whose body was found Sunday. Police said Alderton who was last spotted on a train was asphyxiated. It appeared she had been strangled and that she was not sexually assaulted, police said Tuesday.
The condition of the bodies of Adams and Nicol both of whom were found in water has prevented investigators from determining an exact cause of death, or whether they were sexually assaulted. It did not appear, however, they suffered a significant trauma or had been asphyxiated, Gull said.
Nicholls, 29, was last seen December 5; Clennell, 24, was last seen on Sunday. Both women were seen in the area near Ipswich's red light district, and both had worked as prostitutes.
Police were reviewing closed-circuit television footage of the red light district and other areas of Ipswich, which is about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of London.
Ian Hunter, 46, who works for telecoms company BT one of Ipswich's largest employers said that he had been fishing on Sunday afternoon in the area where Alderton was found. Normally, Ipswich a town of about 120,000 is "pretty relaxed," Hunter said, but the murders have set residents on edge. "My daughter is 13, and once a month they have a youth club (in town)," Hunter said. "There's supposed to be one this Friday, but she won't go.
He said his wife, who worked in Ipswich, had been told by her company only to move about after dark with a friend.