Ipswich murders 10 years on: Ex-vice girl tells how she turned her life around after killings
PUBLISHED: 12:00 03 November 2016
A glimmer of hope is what Ipswich's pioneering street prostitution strategy offered Jade Reynolds.
It was the chance of redemption born out of the most devastating of tragedies.
Had Steve Wright not taken the lives of five of her fellow sex workers, Miss Reynolds may well have ultimately lost hers.
For around 10 years Miss Reynolds’ life plunged further into despair and desperation, selling herself on the streets of Ipswich in order to feed her drug addiction.
Wright was her first customer and she knew four out of the five girls he murdered in late 2006.
Miss Reynolds was on heroin at the age of 15. Now she is clean, still living in Suffolk, and looking to the future with optimism.
The 33-year-old is one of the prostitution strategy’s success stories, but she warned drugs are still a huge problem in Ipswich.
Only two months ago they claimed the life of 34-year-old Suzanne Brown, another former street sex worker who no one was able to reach, despite so many trying.
Miss Reynolds knew Miss Brown. She said Miss Brown’s craving for drugs would see her rob punters and also steal others users’ drugs if she had to. However, there was also a gentler side.
Miss Reynolds said: “The drug issue is still a major factor in Ipswich.
“She was one of the girls who had it really bad.
“She was a nice girl. She would help you if she could.
“She got help, but this is the power of drugs. This is what drugs are like.
“Ten years later she is another of the working girls that have died.”
Despite the lives they led and the measures they were driven to, Miss Reynolds chooses to remember the women Steve Wright murdered for their qualities rather than their deficiencies.
She did not know Tania Nicol, but was friends with Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls.
The former Halifax Primary and Stoke High School pupil said: “Annette was a very good friend of mine.
“It’s only once or twice in your life you feel humbled to meet someone and she was like that.
“She was good-willed, kind-natured and cared about everyone.
“She came across as polite, intelligent and always there for you.
“Annette was a fantastic mother. She was one of the best women I have ever met in my life. She was caring and funny.
“She was a very beautiful, humble, spiritual soul – her smile would just light up.”
Jade had known Anneli Alderton since they were young when they lived in the same children’s home.
“She was an absolutely crazy free spirit. She was always carefree and happy. She obviously had her problems like we all did, but on the whole she was happy-go-lucky.”
Jade knew Paula from the time they went to the Westbridge Education Unit in Old London Road.
She said: “She was more of a hardened girl. You didn’t know what her problems were. She was chirpy, but a bit more reserved.
“Gemma was the only one who was a shock. You would not know she was on drugs. She was very well kept and kept herself to herself.
Jade was in hospital for some of October 2006, but resumed the life she was living when she was discharged.
“After a couple of weeks I was back on the streets, occasionally going out there. It was easier to sell yourself than continue stealing. It helped to have someone (the girls) to talk to.
“I saw Paula on the last night (she was seen) when she did the interview for the telly.”
Paula was outside the Jaguar garage on West End Road when Jade saw her.
Jade had been approached in Sir Alf Ramsey Way by Anglia TV news reporter Simon Newton to speak on camera about the how the sex workers were feeling, but did not want to talk.
Jade walked towards West End Road from the entrance to the recycling centre and saw Paula. She told her about the camera crew and Paula did the interview with her hood up to avoid showing her face.
Despite the murders, the girls’ craving for drugs outweighed the fear that they would be next.
“At the time we were worried. You have to forget about the dangers, put to the back of your mind and go out. We still had addictions to feed.
“It was mentioned. We were a little more careful by having people with us.
“We still had to do it. No-one really talked about the danger.”
Jade worked the streets for nearly a decade.
She said: “Steve Wright was my first ever punter. He was walking on the corner of Elliott Street and London Road.
“It was the first night I had ever tried to do it.
“He came up to me and pretty much instigated business.
“You don’t forget your first one.
“I was scared as hell going down the river with a man I didn’t know.”
Miss Reynolds made a passionate plea to young people and their loved ones to avoid drugs, hoping they will learn from the mistakes which ended with her losing everything.
Born in Great Yarmouth, before going to live in Lowestoft, she moved to Ipswich at the age of nine.
However, her troubles would lead her to dabble in drugs before getting hooked as a teenager.
She said: “Cannabis can lead to something more serious - be happy at home. Talk to your kids, talk to your family, don’t try other stuff.
“Drugs are not the answer.
“I have lost five friends and my entire family. It’s not a way people want to live.
“I was on heroin at 15.
“I lost everything because of my stupid behaviour and the consequences.”
Miss Reynolds also praised Ipswich’s multi-agency approach through the Make A Change team which helped sex workers get off drugs after 2006.
Singling out the workers and volunteers at Iceni in Foundation Street, Miss Reynolds said they were one of the main driving forces in getting the women off the streets before and after the murders.
The 33-year-old said: “Iceni, God bless them, they were there with me daily. They did an amazing job for us girls.”
One can only imagine how long and hard the road has been, but now Miss Reynolds’ life has turned around for the better.
She said: “I’ve got a wedding to look forward to. I’ve been with my partner for two years now.
“I live in Mildenhall. I’m healthy. I’m clean. Life’s normal. It’s 100 times better than 10 years ago.
“I’m just a better person, helping my neighbours, and looking forward to planning my wedding in Portugal.
“I’ve found someone who treats me like a woman should be treated.”