| A court artist’s impression of Steve Wright as he appeared at an Ipswich court on Friday. (AP)
London, Dec. 22: The Suffolk serial killer, who has terrorised the red light area of Ipswich by killing five young women, has been “caught”, most people in Britain will believe after police charged a 48-year-old forklift truck driver, Steven Wright, late last night with all five murders.
He was the second man to be arrested, while the first, Tom Stephens, 37, a worker at his local Tesco supermarket, was released on police bail pending further inquiries (he wouldn’t have been freed if he really was suspected of committing a serious offence).
Wright actually lives in the red-light area of Ipswich, while Stephens recently bought a house for £97,500 not far away in the village of Trimley St Martin.
Stephens, who befriended the women after picking them up initially as a client and later gave them lifts when they went scouring for drugs, has been described by journalists as a “fruitcake” — English slang for someone not entirely of sound mind.
Meanwhile, how thrice-married Wright allegedly picked up and killed the five women and dumped their bodies either in streams or in woodland will now have to await his trial. Two of the women were strangled but police have not said how the three others died.
Thanks to live television coverage, cameras, some mounted high on poles, have given viewers a bird’s-eye feel as police in white boiler suits have gathered forensic evidence at his home, now sealed to the outside world.
A blue Ford Mondeo car, apparently belonging to Wright, was towed away by police who will examine it to see what, if anything, it was used for transporting. A neighbour has already said that Wright was rather given to washing his car, both inside and outside.
Since Wright’s arrest on Tuesday morning, Britain’s best reporters, who can be ferret-like in digging up material, have told their readers almost all there is to know about the man, his former wives and what friends and neighbours think about him.
This brought a warning from the most senior law officer in the land, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, that the media must now curb their reporting.
He said the police force in Suffolk had “expressed concern” that recent reports were hindering its inquiries. “The wide media and public interest in this police investigation is wholly understandable. However, in view of the concerns that some coverage may impede the police investigations, the attorney general asks all parties to exercise restraint in their reporting.”
He emphasised that the Contempt of Court Act 1981 is applicable from the moment of arrest and urged editors to avoid publication of anything which could prejudice a trial or potential prosecution. This included speculation about suspects or material which “asserts or assumes, expressly or implicitly” a person’s guilt, he added.
But it is a fact of life that journalists are as good — and sometimes better — than police in finding out things about people. There are well known ways of encouraging informants who don’t want to talk.
Between now and the trial, which may be held late in 2007 or even in 2008, journalists will be putting together background for use following the end of court proceedings — assuming Wright is convicted. Other authors will descend on Ipswich to write colourful books on Britain’s latest serial killings.
Last night, Michael Crimp, senior prosecutor for Suffolk crown prosecution service, told a news conference: “We have made the decision that there is sufficient evidence and authorised that Steven Wright, born on 24 April 1958, of London Road, Ipswich, should be charged with the murder of Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell.”
There is a sort of “Justice for Jessica” mood in Britain but the laws on the law on sub judice will now be applied strictly.
Crimp added: “Mr Wright will be kept in custody to appear before Ipswich Magistrates’ Court. At this time I would like to remind you of the need to take care in reporting the events surrounding this case. Steven Wright stands accused of these offences and has a right to a fair trial before a jury. It is extremely important that there should be responsible media reporting which should not prejudice the due process of law.”
As the story has progressed, the media has moved away from stressing that the victims were prostitutes. What has come across in recent weeks is how the lives of countless young people in Britain have been destroyed by addiction to hard drugs. There is a common theme. Parents had little or no idea what their daughters, who in most cases were remembered as lovely little girls, were up to. One father said poignantly that after becoming hooked on drugs, his daughter had entered “a secret world”.