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Significant clues found in hunt for Suffolk killer

The important clue has come from a sex worker who saw one of the murdered girls get into a new-looking bluish BMW, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2006 02:17 IST
Vijay Dutt

The massive manhunt in Ipswich, a sleepy little town, which is now in the grip of a nightmare after the murder of five sex workers, has widened with the discovery of a handbag and some pieces of clothing, which will help in doing DNS tests and matching with that of proclaimed offenders.

The reward for information leading to a conviction stands at a record £275,000 after a newspaper (News of the World) added £250,000 to the £25,000 pledged by a local businessman.

A hundred extra police officers have been drafted to help in the investigation. The Chief Detective heading the hunt revealed that the police had so far received 2000 calls from the public, give clues. Quite a large number of calls have been from clients of 40-odd prostitutes in the area.

But the most important clue has come from another sex worker who saw one of the murdered girls get into a new-looking bluish BMW driven by a "chubby" who wore glasses and had short dark hair. He did not look creepy or an oddball, she said.

Psychologists believe the killer is a white male, aged 25-40. He is calm, organised, plausible and intelligent because he plans the locale for leaving the bodies with extreme care and takes no risks.

Police are also working on the theory that he may be a loner with sexual problems. If married, he may have a job with unsociable hours, perhaps a driver. An accomplice could be involved.

Police said that all the bodies found were naked except for a piece of jewellery. This could be the murderer's trade signature, said a detective when HT talked to him. He also said that possibly the murderer was someone recently released from prison after serving time for some crime.

While admitting that they are in a race against time, Police detectives have warned punters in the Ipswich area that they must come forward - or they will come looking for them. They are looking for evidence of any unusual, or violent, behaviour.

Five other women have been murdered in the area over the past 14 years. Three were prostitutes. Three were strangled. Two bodies were not recovered. Police are looking at possible links. They are also interested in violent offenders recently freed from prison, and are cross-matching dates.

Experts are also scouring CCTV footage around the red-light area. One of the girls, Tania Nicol had been spotted on footage on 30 October, when she went missing. Analysts are examining the telephone records of the five victims. If the killer has switched off - or on - any of their mobile phones, the police should be able to tell where. Signal strength from masts allows triangulation, helping police pinpoint the killer's movements - and possibly the murder location.

The hope is that the murderer will be identified soon. But meanwhile Ipswich, known for its "Tractor Boys" of Ipswich Town Football Club is on emergency mode. Stores like Marks & Spencer and Debenham are ferrying their female staff to car parks, stations and in some cases to their homes.

Most have been provided with personal alarms. Ipswich Borough Council too has issued personal alarms and warned staff to take extra precautions. One young woman said she is not going out in the evenings. Most seem to be following her voluntary ban on evening outings. The usually bright-lit Centre always buzzed with chattering people but at 7.30 pm on Sunday, it looked as if it was under curfew.

First Published: Dec 15, 2006 02:17 IST