Is The Suffolk Strangler Behind Bars?
Convicted serial killer Steven Wright claims that he was not responsible for the killings of five prostitutes in Ipswich between October and December 2006
I have a very specific reason for publishing this article next as it will lead to my other case studies and reviews that I have been spending a massive amount of time on and am keen to share with you in the coming days.
If you are truly interested in the more in-depth study of true crime, especially murder and corruption then please enjoy this one and prepare for much more, heavily connected case reviews that tie in.
There are some really important points to consider in this article and I want to make it clear that not all of the contents are necessarily my opinion or belief.
So to give you a little background for anyone that is not familiar with the case, a series of murders took place in the county of Suffolk in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2006, which led to the killer being nicknamed “The Suffolk Strangler”.
The victims were sex workers/prostitutes that worked in the red light district of Ipswich. It transpires that Steven Wright regularly used the services of street workers and ended up being convicted of the murder of five young women.
Now, interestingly Steven claims that he was not responsible for the killings and here I want to deeply review the case that led to him being sentenced to life imprisonment.
So, is this 62-year-old really a serial killer or is the true “Suffolk Strangler” still prowling the streets of Ipswich, waiting to pounce again?
Before I go any further with this case review I want to let you know that Steven Wright worked onboard the QE2 cruise ship with the missing estate agent Suzy Lamplugh in the early 1980s. Even more interesting is the point that he was on shore leave on the day the that Lamplugh went missing, but that’s for later.
He went on to Marry another woman, Diana in 1987 just a few months after Suzy disappeared whilst apparently out showing a house to a potential buyer in London.
Steven Wright was found guilty of what has been described as “The most preposterous series of murders in the history of crime”
The first two victims were found several weeks after their deaths, partially dressed in a river on the outskirts of Ipswich, in quite fast-moving water, obviously put there in order to hide and destroy forensic evidence.
Whilst the next two were dumped openly, naked, layed out in a cruciform pattern with their hair layed in a halo style as if to prompt rapid discovery and allow the fullest of forensic examination.
The fifth and final victim (as far as we are aware) was just literally thrown into rough shrubland, naked but with no time spent hiding the body or leaving in any particular way, as if a great deal more rushed.
Even Steven’s father said that he found it extremely hard to believe that his son was capable of killing, as he wouldn’t even kill a rabbit.
I am not saying it is impossible, because killers are pretty unpredictable, but it is quite rare for a serial killer to change his or her Modus Operandi that much.
The method of killing was quite unusual in all five cases in that the women were not so much strangled as asphyxiated, whereby the killer had wrapped an arm around the victim’s neck from behind and in effect squeezed the throat until the victim lost consciousness.
The victims were:
These first two girls were both found in rapid moving water, in a small river on the edge of Ipswich, both were partially clothed seemingly in order to destroy forensic evidence.
A completely different Modus Operandi with the latter three than the first two, which really is quite unusual. It does seem very likely that the murders were all the responsibility of the same perpetrator indicated by the unusual method of killing.
Over six-thousand hours were spent in the forensic analysis by more than one hundred scientists during the murder enquiries. They carefully studied thousands of fibres taken from the victims, swabs for bodily fluids and possible DNA matches, a very slow and painstaking process indeed.
A DNA match took the police to Steven Wright, a local barman who lived right in the heart of the red-light district of Ipswich, on London Road. He had moved there with his partner just a matter of weeks before the killing spree began.
Wright’s DNA had been held on the police database due to a conviction for theft dating back to 2002. He had been convicted of stealing a relatively petty amount of eighty pounds from an employer.
A dawn raid at 0500 on December 19th 2006 led to Steven Wright being arrested and taken away for interrogation. The police clearly seemed convinced from very early on in that arrest process as they wasted no time in informing the media “This is a significant arrest and the team is feeling quite buoyant”. They quickly added that they were not looking for any further information in connection with the five murders and that the arrest was a major breakthrough.
Police told the press that CCTV evidence was the biggest part of the reason for Wright’s arrest, which they believed showed footage of Steven’s Ford Mondeo car, picking up his first victim but to be fair it was dark, there was no NPR, number plate recognition and there is now some doubt whether the car was indeed a Ford Mondeo. Even if it was, to be fair there were at that time many Mondeos around and I am sure Wright was not the only client of the sex workers to own one
There is another item of evidence that seems to have been somewhat “overlooked” in that the final victim, Paula Clennell and another witness claimed to have seen Tania Nicol two hours after the time that the Mondeo is apparently seen picking her up on her “final Journey”. Remember that Paula predicted her own murder during a TV interview, she seemed pretty sure it was iminent.
The slightly unusual thing here is that the police were very certain that they had their man and were willing to exclude all other potential suspects. Police will rarely agree that they have definitely found a culprit with such certainty at such an early stage unless they have either caught the person in the act or have an absolute confession, neither was so in this case.
Wright’s reasoning at trial for the girls having his DNA on them was his open admission that he regularly used the services of prostitues from the local red-light district and of course these girls were some of them. The words of a justice campaign organisation involved with Wright are “His defence of Not Guilty was as absurd as the murders themselves”
I have to agree with Cascade that there is something very strange about many aspects of this case, very few points of the case truly make any sense.
I mean let’s start with the complete switch of methods of disposal of the bodies in regard to the first two bodies and the other three. The timings are completely different, whether this was some kind of rush of desperation to be caught and stopped perhaps, but it doesn’t seem likely.
The first two murders had a clear and definitive time line of two weeks between them, both were placed in fast moving water thus destroying pretty much any chance of forensic evidence, yet as I will discuss a little later, scientists somehow managed to recover forensic evidence that they were able to definitely pin on Wright from the women’s hair.
One very interesting point in connection with the deposition of the bodies is that the first two were dumped in the East of Ipswich, whilst the other three were dumped in the West. Once again this leaves questions as to why, again a killer usually has an area that he or she chooses for a specific reason in which to dispose of corpses.
There is of course the possible clue that two had been discovered to the East of Ipswich and therefore a killer may have considered it to be safer to move deposition sites but then he went from somewhat hiding the bodies in water to leaving them out in the open to be easily found. As I mentioned before, it is possible by that point in time the killer suddenly wanted to be caught, but why? It truly doesn’t make much sense.
Anyway let’s look at Steven Wright a little more, he was already known by the local police in Ipswich especially in the red-light district. He had been stopped and checked on, on two occasions. The police stopped his car on November 20th 2006 whilst with his partner, Pam Wright. They were investigating the disappearance of Tania Nicol but Wright just simply said that he knew nothing.
He was next stopped at 01.50am in the early hours of December 1st 2006, on that occasion he told police that he was unaware that he was in the red-light district, which obviously that was a lie but a small lie, to possibly hide the fact that he was using the services of prostitutes, hardly a reason to arrest him and definitely not a reason to charge him with five murders.
So what about Tom Stephens, the first man arrested as a suspect in the case, a man who almost confessed in media interviews, but not quite. He certainly put himself up as involved.
Now, something which has struck me as very interesting was that during an interview with the Sunday Mirror Stephens said that he had been interviewed by the police under caution and his house had been thoroughly searched. He told the journalist that he believed the police to have some fifty suspects, mostly clients of the women.
He said that he believed the five prostitutes that had been murdered were the best looking ones in Ipswich and went on to say that the river area where the first two were found was a place where the girls took punters for sex.
Now the main point and one that really speaks volumes to me at this particular juncture; at the end of the interview with The Sunday Mirror, in reply to a question about the risk of him being charged Stephens said “it often happens that one man will be arrested and the next one charged” and to be fair that is literally what happened to Steven Wright.
So yes, both Wright and Stephens were clients to the prostitutes and were both arrested in connection with the murders but Wright had lied to the police during the early days of their investigations. The police did say that the arrest had not come as a result of a trawl through the women’s clients, but I know Wright’s defence counsel do not believe that and neither do I.
After Steven Wright’s arrest, more than five hundred items were seized from his home and car which confirmed that bodily fluids were present. Scientists were able to get DNA from those fluids and thus discovered profiles matching Annette Nicholls, Anneli Alderton and Paula Clennelli. They also recovered various fibres from the bodies using adhesive tapes, which were compared against the items taken from his home and car.
There were other items recovered such as fibres matching the carpet from Wright’s car which were apparently found in Tania Nicol’s hair, despite her being found in fast running water in Belstead Brook during a time of flooding, which I have to say seems a little curious.
Wright professed his innocence from the time of arrest and still does. He says that he was genuinely shocked at the jury’s verdicts. He describes hearing the verdict as “a knife in the heart” as he had not expected to be found guilty at all. In a letter to The East Anglia Daily Times newspaper dated August 2008 Wright said that he was “numb with shock” after being found guilty of the murders as there was “not a scrap of evidence” against him.
He told the paper “People should believe that I am innocent because I have gone through my whole life trying to be as fair and considerate to other people as I possibly could. I don’t have a violent bone in my body and to take a life I would have thought would be the ultimate form of aggression. All the evidence proved was that I had contact with the girls but not one shred of evidence showed that I killed them”.
Interestingly Steven wright is not the only one that considers his conviction to be shaky to say the least. According to David Dixon, Crime writer and investigator he believes that the forensic evidence linking Wright to the murders does not in any way prove that he was actually the killer.
He testified that in his opinion most fibre deposits would have been lost in the wind and rain after just a few hours of exposure to the elements, yet a complete profile of Steven wright’s DNA was found on not just one, but three murder victims despite the naked bodies having exposed to the elements. They stated that there was no sign of sexual assault yet Wright had regularly had sex with them, albeit whilst using a condom.
Dixon absolutely believes that the more realistic suspect vehicle was, in fact, a dark blue BMW with polished alloy wheels. Why does he say that?
Anneli Alderton was last seen alive getting into a dark blue BMW and Gemma Adams was last seen outside a BMW garage, Annette Nicholls was seen getting into a dark blue BMW with polished alloys a week before she disappeared and Tania Nicol was seen at the window of “a posh blue car” laughing and giggling with the two male occupants, but none of this evidence was given at the trial
A doorman working at a massage parlour witnessed a driver in a blue BMW with polished alloys behaving very strangely in the car park in early December 2006, he was reversing the car up and driving forward again, before eventually driving off at speed.
David Dixon says “If we add up all the elements we get, ‘seen getting into’, ‘last seen alive’. ‘last seen outside a BMW garage’, ‘acting suspiciously outside a sex industry venue’, last seen talking to two men in a posh blue car’, so all this indicates great suspicion toward the BMW.
Dixon says that he firmly believes that Wright’s defence did not make enough of these points at the trial. I suspect because they wanted the case wrapped up as much as the prosecution did.
Steven Wright admitted having sex with Adams in his car at around the same time that she apparently vanished and admitted that in later times he had taken three of the women, Nicholls, Clenneli and Alderton to his home for sex whilst his partner Pam was at work. He said that he took them to the bedroom but never had sex on the bed in case his partner somehow smelt sex on the bedding. He usually had sex with the women on two jackets, on the floor and the court was told that bloodstains from Nicholls and Clennell were found on one of the jackets.
It is therefore quite acceptable that there were small amounts of blood on the jackets, especially if the sex was a little rough or of course they were slight stains from menstruation. . There is certainly nothing to connect blood to the killings as the girls were asphyxiated not cut in any way. This is indeed something which in my opinion should have been given more thorough scrutiny by Wright’s defence.
The chief prosecutor, Michael Crimp said Wright was the “common denominator” in all five murders, he said that Wright was the last person to see all five women alive and that scientific evidence proved that he was responsible for their deaths. He said that Wright had failed to offer any satisfactory explanation as to the reason for the blood of two women being on his jacket, yet I have given the explanation in just a few words.
David Dixon describes the killings as “serial cascade murders”, because of the timing change between the first two murders and the other three. He offers the question “Why would a serial killer accelerate the pace of his series so dramatically when the police surveillance of such a small district from which he took his victims was so high”? I am once again inclined to agree with Dixon on this.
There are so many avenues here that clearly were not explored properly. Wright admitted that he was aware of the deposition sites, which he had no need to if he were guilty; he would surely deny such knowledge.
He had a long history of using prostitutes over more than 25 years yet he had never shown any sign of attempts to kill or even to harm them in any way through all that time, so why suddenly kill five in a short space of time?
None of the women’s property has ever been recovered from searches of Wright’s home and car, so he did not keep them as trophies or even accidentally neglect to pick up every item when cleaning up after the killings, again an action that is deemed by criminologists as pretty rare.
Another professional who accepts Steven Wright’s story that he was wrongly convicted of the “Suffolk prostitute murders” is Owner/editor of Court Publications in the Republic of Ireland, Noel O’Gara who has undertaken his own in-depth investigation and published an e-book about the case entitled “The Real Suffolk Strangler”.
Like me, he agrees that the fact Steven’s DNA was found on the victims does not prove he is a killer, all that it proved was that sexual relations happened between Wright and the women, which he openly admitted to,
We are agreed that the mystery blue BMW is very much a missing piece in the jigsaw that was clearly not properly investigated by the police.
In his book, O’Gara says that the true killer was actually a former policeman who operated as a pimp for all of the murdered sex workers and that the true killer was the driver of the BMW.
So I will draw this to a close, there is more that i could say but I will save that for another blog on another day.
The question we have here is; “Is the Suffolk Strangler, still on the loose”? “Was Steven Wright telling the truth when he said that he was Not Guilty of the murders”? Do your research and get in touch if you’d like to discuss it further.
One closing thought, no one has been able to interview the other chief suspect because according to locals he moved away from the Ipswich area very soon after Wright’s conviction, I will say no more.