Breakthrough in UK serial murder case

Tom Stephens, suspected of killing five women, has been arrested at Trimley St Martin home, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2006 20:13 IST
Vijay Dutt

A dramatic breakthrough has led to the arrest of a 37-year-old man on suspicion of murdering the five women whose bodies were found in and around Ipswich. Identified as a worker in a supermarket, Tom Stephens was arrested by police at his home at Trimley St Martin village, on the road from Ipswich to Felixstowe early on Monday morning.

Police said he was being held on suspicion at an unnamed police station in Suffolk and will be soon be questioned. Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull said, "We will not be naming the police station where the man is being held."

It is learnt that Stephens had been visited by police earlier in the investigation as well, and items taken away from his house for examination.

"As legal proceedings are now active, Suffolk Police will not be issuing further comments or appeals at this stage," Gull added.

Trimley St Martin was last in the news in 1999 when 17-year-old Vicky Hall vanished on her way home from a nightclub in Felixstowe - and was later found dead in a ditch at Creeting St Peter - 40 km from Felixstowe. It was then believed she had been choked to death but a post-mortem examination proved inconclusive.

Police have not linked this case with the deaths of the five prostitutes. They did not comment on whether they would question Stephens about Hall's murder.

The arrest of Stephens comes after the biggest manhunt in the country in recent times, with over 350 detectives being pressed into the investigation and CCTV video recordings being intensively used.

Women in the area will breathe much more freely now. They have been living under fear since the first reports of a serial killer on the loose. Most working women were issued personal alarms and some were even sent home from offices in company cars.

The night before the arrest of Stephens, police had announced amnesty for drug dealers who had supplied heroin and crack to the murdered women and asked them to come forward with any information they had.

The five dead women - Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Tania Nicol, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls - were all prostitutes, aged between 19 and 29. They were all found naked close to the A14 road.

First Published: Dec 18, 2006 20:13 IST