Lou's real story

THROUGHOUT the murder investigation into the killings of Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Annelie Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls, one Ipswich woman has become the face of prostitution in Ipswich.

THROUGHOUT the murder investigation into the killings of Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Annelie Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls, one Ipswich woman has become the face of prostitution in Ipswich.

'Lou' has never given her real name, but has always been prepared to speak publicly to the media. For many she has given a deeper insight into the murky red-light world than they ever imagined.

Today, 'Lou' reveals her own story in a moving interview in which she tells how her craving for drugs has destroyed her dreams and her life.

LOW and dazzling winter sunshine glints through her soft, light ginger, hair.

She poses for pictures, perched on the settee in the room where she escapes the pressures of the life she has drifted into.

Her beauty is fading - but there's no doubt she is a striking young woman, one who would have turned many a male head in her day.

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Meet 'Lou', the £1,680 a week heroin addict who has become Britain's saddest TV star.

The 28-year-old woman has become the sad face of drugs and prostitution in Ipswich.

Heroin and crack cocaine have eroded her hopes and dreams and she now lives for her £240 a day habit.

'Lou', as she wishes to be known, lives in a damp and cold end terrace in the centre of Ipswich.

Her front window is boarded up and, as she speaks, in her spartan sitting room, her breathe can be seen in the icy air.

'Lou's' home has no carpet and the only furniture in her lounge is a small table and an ageing floral sofa.

It is a life far removed from the one she dreamt of as a young girl when she had aspirations of being an air stewardess, with a happy home and a successful career.

“Once you start on the drugs that blocks out all of your emotions and all of your dreams fade away,” she says.

Today 'Lou' has become an icon of Ipswich' street life, her face splashed across television stations and national newspapers and the woman, who underneath is warm and personable, is labelled a “hooker” and a heroin addict.

Lou is a woman grieving for five of her friends Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Annelie Alderton, Annette Nicholls and best friend Paula Clennell.

Their deaths have propelled her into the limelight and television viewers and newspaper readers have looked at her as the image of Ipswich's underworld.

But 'Lou' does not want to be judged.

Speaking to The Evening Star, chinks of the outside sunshine lighten her pale skin and her voice and limbs shake as she speaks matter-of-factly about how drugs have led her into this life and how she is now in their grip.

The 28-year-old is desperately trying to get clean and is currently using prescribed methadone but she says she is finding it a struggle.

'Lou' said: “I was 21 when I started taking heroin. It started just before my boy was born. My girls had been taken away from me just before that (her children were adopted because of a turbulent domestic situation).

“I used drugs to numb out the pain. Someone introduced me to it, I would rather not say who. When my girls got put up for adoption this person was doing some at the time and they gave it to me.

“The prostitution started a few months after I started taking the brown (heroin) and I did it to support myself. I had been turning it over in my mind and there were a number of people who were out working and I was asking questions and they were bigging it up saying you can get loads of money from it.

“I had a couple of arguments with the fellow I was with at the time and then I basically just went out and started.”

'Lou' said she can't remember who her first client was but she remembers how she felt the first night she worked the streets.

“I was nervous as anything and I felt sick to the stomach that I was going out and doing that,” she said.

“Once I started getting money in from doing the customers and getting the drugs and everything to block it out, it was OK and I got into the routine of doing it.

“I would say to people 'don't do drugs because it makes you do things you wouldn't normally do'. I never dreamt I would be going out and working on the streets. Once drugs get hold of you it is a downward spiral.”

'Lou' grew up in Nacton and said she had a fairly normal family life.

She attended Holywells High School and left home when she was 16. As a youngster she used to bicker with her mum but their relationship grew stronger when she left home.

'Lou's' father died last year but she still speaks to her mother and stayed with her after a stint in prison last year.

She added: “I went to Holywells and I got my GCSEs and that. At the time I wanted to work in the travel industry on cruises and planes as a stewardess, now I would like to become a mechanic - I haven't done anything about it yet but I have what my dad taught me.”

'Lou' is on a high dose of methodone and said she really wants to give up drugs and begin a career.

However, she said she needs drug to survive and although she has managed to stay clean for more than a year in the past, until recently she was using about £140 of heroin and £100 of crack cocaine every day.

She added: “With heroin your eyes start running, your nose runs, you ache all over and you are physically sick as well as mentally sick - it's a vicious circle.”

'Lou' said she is finding the portrayal of her and her friends in the national media difficult at times.

She said she is happy to speak to the press about what she does because she is doing no wrong but she doesn't want people to make judgements about her.

She added: “I don't mind talking about it because I am not embarrassed about what I do. I have got nothing to be ashamed of. I am supporting myself, I am not stealing off people and I am not sponging off the tax payers to pay for my drugs and lifestyle.

“Don't judge us by the stereotypes. We are people, we have families and loved ones.”

'Lou' is finding it difficult to cope with the killings of her five fellow sex workers and can still not believe what is happening.

She said: “I am not coping with what's happened if I am truthful. My best friend has been taken from me and that is hard. I usually sleep in the daytime but I have been up a lot lately. It is horrible and I have had lots of tears.

“I won't be able to celebrate Christmas with everything that is going on. I am just trying to get along and cope with everything.

“I want to say to the girls' families that I am praying for them at this time of sadness and they should have faith that whoever has done this will be brought to justice.”

'Lou' continued to work the streets after the first girls were murdered because she could earn anything from £60 to £250.

She knows it is a risky job and she has been attacked by clients but said it is an easy way to make money.

She added: “Some of the clients are alright. You do get some weird ones out there and I have been attacked a few times. You get young punters aged 18 and 19 and those aged right up to 70 or 80.

“I don't think about who they are because they are no different to me. I am going out there and letting them come and see me so I try not to be judgemental. It is not nice to be judged - they are just people and they have needs, whether it is because they are not getting it at home or what.

“I have the opinion that us girls stop a lot of the rapes and sexual assaults going on - even though some of us do get raped and attacked.”

She said she knew both murder suspects Tom Stephens, 37, who was arrested at his home in Trimley St Martin on Monday and 48-year-old Steve Wright who was arrested in London Road on Tuesday.

She added: “Tom would come down and give us lifts - we all had his phone numbers.

“He used to put some of the girls up if they had nowhere to stay and he would feed them and let them use his hot water and that. He has always struck me as a caring person. This is all so strange.

“I knew Steve through business. Every time I see him he is in a Mondeo and he picks me up and takes me back to his house. He seemed alright, nothing out of the ordinary. He has never been rough or anything - I don't know why they arrested him.

“The last time I saw him was about three weeks ago. He picked me up the night before and the next night I saw him driving around still.

“I would say he was out about three or four times a week, usually punters only come down about once a week.”

She said she had known Wright for about eight months and they used to have sex in his car but now it is always at the bedsit in London Road.