Ipswich: Charity led way in protecting women at risk after murders

SHOCKED at what had befallen their friends, women who walked alongside Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls, sought help.

Each had their reasons, forcing them onto the streets. For every one an addiction to Class A drugs drove them to sell their bodies for sex.

But for most they can now look forward.

Many of them have overcome their demons, with the help and support of a dedicated team of addiction experts at Iceni, a drugs rehabilitation charity.

During Ipswich’s darkest days, until Steve Wright was arrested in December 2006, Iceni was at the centre of groundbreaking work to help vulnerable women find a way out.

Today, Brian Tobin, co-founder of the charity based in Foundation Street which last year was faced with the prospect of being closed after losing funding, said it is important to see a “positive come out of such a tragic turn of events”.

He said the events of late 2006 must serve as a means to improve the situation for those “in such a desperate and dangerous activity”.

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“We have to acknowledge that prior to the events that occurred in late 2006 the services available for individuals involved in street prostitution fell short of providing adequate support in many areas, specifically the ability to offer effective and safe routes out of this activity,” he said.

“Through our initial period of engagement with street prostitutes it became apparent that all the women were involved in the use of substances with the vast majority being addicted to heroin and/or crack cocaine.

“Addiction is the common factor and whilst there may be individuals who have to resort to street prostitution to support themselves and their families, our experience was that the need to feed an addiction was the only reason women ended up on the streets of Ipswich.

“We also learnt that many tended to present with complex and multiple needs such as, poverty, poor health, domestic violence, child protection matters, sexual abuse, rape, mental health, low self-esteem and persistent offending.”

For those women today, Mr Tobin said they do not want to be reminded of their pasts, choosing to move on.

He added: “It has been a difficult time for the community of Ipswich and whilst we should be proud of the success we have achieved let’s not ever forget that it took the loss of five women for this and other positive outcomes to occur and five years on from such an atrocious time is bound to bring up painful memories for many.”

Last November Mr Tobin and his team received a devastating blow that the majority of their funding was to be pulled.

Mounting a campaign Save Iceni, Save Lives with The Evening Star the team worked tirelessly to raise around �320,000 to ensure their survival. They are pioneering a new approach, helping families cope with the impact of addiction while helping the addicts break the cycle.