Who is The Suffolk Strangler?

Steven Wright was arrested in December 2006 and suspected of the murder of five women, all of whom were street prostitutes in Ipswich, Suffolk UK.

It has been 16 years since a killer prowled the streets of Ipswich, Suffolk taking the lives of at least five street prostitutes. Is that killer in custody or is he just dormant?

It was fast approaching Christmas when two women were reported missing. 25-year-old Gemma Adams and 19-year-old Tania Nicol were reported missing from Ipswich, within a 14-day period. They were both street prostitutes and addicted to drugs.

Gemma’s lifeless body was found in a fast-flowing brook at Thorpe’s Hill in Hintlesham which is situated roughly halfway between Ipswich and Hadleigh. She was found on December 2nd, 2006. She had been murdered although the actual cause of death was not established it is believed to have been suffocation. She was last seen on November 15th 2006 outside a BMW dealership in West End Road, Ipswich.

Tania Nicol (19) was found in a fast-flowing stream

Tania Nicol was next to be found also in running water in a brook at Copdock, a small village on the outskirts of Ipswich with a very small population of approximately just 1,000.

Although Tania had been the first of the women to be reported missing it took until December 8th, 2006 to find her body. She had last been seen on October 30th when she left her family home, believed to be heading for the red-light district of Ipswich.

The people of Ipswich were on high alert and worried as it began to seem that a serial killer may be on the prowl, particularly targeting sex workers. Was this a copycat thing similar to the Yorkshire Ripper in the late 1970s and early 1980s? To say the least, the town folk were pretty worried and it badly affected Christmas shopping in 2006

Next, to be found was 24-year-old Anneli Alderton she was last seen on December 3rd, 2006 when she boarded a train from Harwich, Essex where her mother lived to go to Manningtree. Her body was found naked in woodland at Nacton on the outskirts of Ipswich.

Anneli was a regular sex worker who was known to have had brushes with the law, struggled with drug and alcohol issues, and had a five-year-old son.

Just two days after Anneli was found and Ipswich was rocked by more horrifying news that two more young women had been found, 29-year-old Annette Nicholls and 24-year-old Paula Clennell, They had been discovered just a few yards from one another in Levington on December 12th, 2006.

An early but nonetheless interesting observation of these murders is the difference in deposition sites and the methods used in dumping the bodies. Two of the unfortunate women were dumped to the East of Ipswich, whilst the other three were dumped to the West. Is that of importance? I believe it could be yes.

Forensic evidence suggests that all of the five victims were attacked from behind and that the killer kind of head-locked them with his arm tightly across their throats until they were unconscious.

As already discussed the first two bodies were found fully or partially clothed in a nearby river in Ipswich. whilst the next two were left naked in woodlands no attempt was made to cover or hide the bodies. Two of the victims had been laid out with their bodies arranged in a cruciform position with the hair extended straight outwards. Jewellery was taken from the victims but has never been found.

Interestingly one of the two suspects arrested during the police investigation had a copy of the painting (below) on the wall in his house. It is called The Equivocal Woman by Max Ernst, originally painted in 1923. As you can see the picture literally depicts the way the victims were laid out. Of course, we cannot be certain how the two found in fast-moving water were laid out but pathology suggests the same method was used on all but the last victim.

I will discuss the two suspects later but let’s just say for now this painting was NOT in Steve Wright’s house.

When the murders began to be discovered Suffolk police asked their forensic science team to get involved in one of the larger hunts for a murderer in British history. in no way the biggest manhunt in comparison to that of the Yorkshire ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.

From the time Tania Nicol was reported missing on November 1st, 2006, the police brought in some 600 officers from almost every force in Britain. The investigation team received more than 12,000 telephone calls from the public and had around 11,000 hours of CCTV footage to examine.

DNA swabs were of course taken from all five victims and a match was found for Steve Wright on three, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nichols and Paula Clennell. Now at this point, I must make it clear that it is clearly stated in evidence that the DNA evidence was enough to say Wright had met the women and possibly been intimate with them but not to identify him as a killer.

Scientific Research on this matter

We have been fortunate to establish contact with university personnel and in turn gather a good deal of very important evidence.

The court trial against Steve Wright put forward evidence indicating that there were fibres from Steve’s home and car including carpet fibres but the forensic evidence argues that there is insufficient evidence to convict with the passage of time from murder to deposition and to the bodies being found.

so let’s have a look at some of the points of scientific research that leads to it being suggested that Wright was not the right man or that there has been some kind of fit-up.

As we know Tania Nicol was reported missing on October 30th 2016 and found 39 days later, whilst Gemma Adams was reported missing on November 15th 2016 and found some 17 days later on December 2nd 2016. Both women were found naked and immersed in quite fast-moving water.

Now, According to Dr Edmond Locard’s (1934) principle of mutual exchange, “any action of an individual, and obviously the violent action constituting a crime, cannot occur without leaving a trace.” Well yes, I would agree absolutely with that.

Dr Locard discovered and confirmed that fibres can often be used to find out if there was contact between 2 items. This is discussed in detail in Forensic Science Laboratory Manual and Workbook, written by Thomas Kubic and Nicholas Petraco, first published in 2009.

An investigation was carried out into the frequency of colour types of fibres in 12 different university students' hair at Teesside university.

The details of which are as follows:

Student 1. 803

Student 2. 22

Student 3. 89

Student 4. 84

Student 5. 160

Student 6. 155

Student 7. 712

Student 8. 317

Student 9. 908

Student 10. 495

Student 11. 206

Student 12. 714

Gemma Adams had a total of 216 fibres recovered from her hair. The average amount of fibres found from the tapings of the university students' hair was 389 fibres so the amount of fibres in Adams’ hair is quite low comparatively.

This decreases the evidential value of the fibres collected linking Steve Wright to the murder as it is likely that when she first died, the number of fibres in Adam’s hair was higher than when she was found. This means that some possible fibre evidence linking Wright to her murder could be missing, but there is nothing to confirm it was ever there.

Out of the 216 fibres found in Adams’ hair, just 14 of them matched the ones that were found on suspect Steve Wright’s clothes, sofa and motor vehicle. This number was 22 out of 380 for Nicol. These are relatively low values, consequently, the fibres that linked the girls to Wright are more likely to just have occurred by chance and thus offer very little in the way of evidential value in a murder trial.

After their bodies were discovered, the women's hair was examined after 17 days (Adams) and 39 days (Nicol). Further to this, there were 32 days (Adams) and 49 days (Nicol) between the disappearances of each girl and Wright’s arrest on the 18th of December 2016.

According to scientific research, the initial loss of transferred fibres is rapid. 3 % of transferred fibres remain after 34 hours. Keep those figures in mind and ask yourself how were such a number of fibres still in the women’s hair after such long periods, particularly if you bear in mind how long they had been in fast-running stream water in winter.

This means that a huge proportion of fibres that were initially transferred to their hair during the murders and transported to the deposition site would have been lost. This decreases the evidential strength of fibres linking Wright to the murders as a large amount of the potential fibre evidence was lost before the girls were even found.

Although work done by R. Palmer (1998) shows that clothes can retain fibres accumulated after contact with another garment even after the washing of that garment. This increases evidential strength linking Wright to the murders of the two girls as even if he had washed his clothes in these 32 and 49-day periods, a lot of the fibres that were on them that linked him to the murders would have still been on those clothes, but curiously they weren’t.

One red acrylic fibre was recovered from the hair of Gemma Adams that matched fibres found in Wright’s motor vehicle, on his sofa and on his coat and tracksuit bottoms that he was wearing at the time of his arrest, that’s right, just one.

Red fibres are less common than black and blue and acrylic is less common than cotton or polyester fibres. This slightly increases the strength of evidence as it means that it is less likely that the match occurred by chance. However, they were extraneous fibres which means we don’t know the source of them.

This indicates that the fibre could just be there by coincidence. Also, there is only one of them which further lowers evidential strength.

13 variable blue polyester fibres found in Adams’ hair matched some found on Wright’s clothing when he was arrested. Blue is a fairly common colour, and polyester is a very common fibre type, especially in Palmer and Oliver’s (2004) study. They were also extraneous fibres.

These factors once again, decrease the evidence strength and indicates that the fibres found were just there by chance. Also, because the fibres were variable, the strength in evidence is further reduced is further lowered as the fibres weren’t consistent and there is a chance that they could have all come from different garments or materials.

Now I have been asked several times to work on documentaries featuring this case and have been let down, however, I have now been invited by a professional TV company, who I will not name just yet to work alongside them to look at the unsolved murders of Norwich prostitutes, Natalie Pearman, Kellie Pratt, and Michelle Bettles.

We published a blog on the case in June 2021, you can read that here by clicking the link:

https://lolly-truecrime.medium.com/norwich-prostitute-murders-655f54bfa170

We not only need to answer the question, of who killed these three prostitutes but was it the same person who killed the Ipswich prostitutes in 2006?

Of course, the ultimate question remains was Steven Gerald James Wright the Suffolk strangler or was he just the fall guy? Was the real killer a man who is still roaming free. . .ex cop, pimp and drug fixer, Tom Stephens?

There is evidence that indicates that Tom Stephens murdered his 19-year-old girlfriend Tania Nicol, who was the first girl to have been reported missing on 30th October 2006.

During the period that Tania was missing it is alleged that Stephens hatched a plan to kill another prostitute in order to take the spotlight of blame away from him and onto another man. That man was Steven Wright who just so happened to have been the last punter to meet and go with Tania Nicol before she apparently vanished.

Stephens knew exactly how to set things up in order to make Steven Wright look like the killer. He waited patiently until wright dropped off Gemma Adams then picked her up, and took her to score drugs before driving her out of town to kill her.

He then probably asked her to get undressed for sex, strangled her in a tight arm lock and killed her. He took her and Tania Nicol’s bodies to a flooded stream and dumped them.

Stephens then went on to act as a ‘protector’ to the other three until he could kill them. He waited for each one to be dropped off by Steven Wright, then followed the same pattern, driving them to score drugs, letting them use them in his car before killing them.

Look this crazed man even had an interview with a national newspaper, The Daily Mirror during which he predicted his own arrest, then telephoned the police telling them that he “may well be the killer” which of course resulted in his being arrested.

Bear in mind at that point in time, Suffolk Police believed that Stephens was the killer, but he gave told them that in fact, he had been trying to protect the working girls and had been watching and helping them. He gave the police the car registration number for Steven Wright’s Ford Mondeo and told them that whilst acting as the girl’s guard he had witnessed them being driven away by Wright on the last nights that they were seen alive.

There is a great deal more to the story of Tom Stephens but that is for another day, just rest assured the truth will come out and things will change a great deal in the coming months.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for taking the time to read this lengthy article and if you would like to discuss the case or indeed any of my work with me please make contact.

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Lolly’s True Crime World cold case review specialists, researchers, and Unsolved crime investigation is our passion. Buy me a coffee buymeacoffee.com/?via=lolly

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Lolly True crime

Lolly’s True Crime World cold case review specialists, researchers, and Unsolved crime investigation is our passion. Buy me a coffee buymeacoffee.com/?via=lolly