Multiple theories on murder

AS Suffolk Police face the unenviable task of fighting against the clock to track down and capture the killer of five women they are not alone with their theories.

AS Suffolk Police face the unenviable task of fighting against the clock to track down and capture the killer of five women they are not alone with their theories.

Almost every major crime will bring with it a series of theories from a public who are desperate to help get the menace off of our streets.

But are the theory makers a help or a hindrance?

WE are told that Suffolk Police is one of the smallest forces in the country policing one of the safest counties.

Today, that force is faced with trying to solve one of the most shocking and frightening crimes ever to happen in this country - and it is a crime that could still get worse.

But as the real detectives search for clues and evidence and form theories about the so-called Red Light Killer they are not alone.

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Theories about the methods and motives of the killer are already plentiful and as Suffolk Police appeal for anyone with information about the case to get in touch with them, those appeals will inevitably also bring them plenty of calls from people keen to offer advice.

The Evening Star too has been a contact point for many people who believe they have an understanding of how the Suffolk killer is operating.

While it is unlikely any of these theories will ever be found to be true, there can be no doubt that some macabre coincidences have been spotted between these deaths and others in the past.

The two most common links being made are with Jack the Ripper and Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe who both targeted prostitutes during their killing sprees.

During 1888 in the Whitechapel area of London, a number prostitutes were murdered and mutilated in very similar circumstances. Their killer was never caught and has become known as Jack The Ripper.

Between 1975 and 1984, Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe killed 13 sex workers in a five-year reign of terror before being sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in jail.

There is some doubt over exactly how many prostitutes were killed by Jack The Ripper, but it is widely agreed that he murdered at least five - the same number who have lost their lives in Suffolk.

And, chillingly, the first woman believed to have been killed by Jack The Ripper shared a surname with two of the Suffolk targets.

Although there are differences in the spelling, 19-year-old Tania Nicol was the first woman to go missing in Suffolk and Annette Nicholls, the fifth woman named as a victim, share a surname with Mary Ann Nichols, who died in August 1888.

Tania also went missing on the same day that the Yorkshire Ripper claimed his first victim, Wilma McCann, 31 years earlier.

Another coincidence which is drawing people to make links with Jack The Ripper has been found in the locations where police have found the murdered women and items of clothing that could be linked to them.

The first letters of the places Nacton, Ipswich, Copdock, Hintlesham, Orwell, Levington and Shotley together spell Nichols.

Other theories put forward about the Suffolk killings have been more obscure.

One has suggested the killer is placing the bodies near to bronze age burial grounds or trying to form a circle in the pattern of a dartboard with them.


While there can be little doubt these theories are the result of a genuine desire to help police with their investigations, the question of why people are prompted to believe they can offer assistance has to be asked.

Stephen Ryder is someone who perhaps knows more than most about the Jack The Ripper killings after writing a book about them and setting up a website called Casebook.

Based in Virginia in America, Mr Ryder studied Victorian history at college and developed an interest in the Whitechapel murders and has visited London several times to research them.

He disagrees that links can be drawn between those deaths and the Suffolk killings.

He said: “Lots of people have emailed me about the surnames being Nichols.

“I think that is forcing things a bit and I don't think it helps the investigation.

“But with cases like this where there is no rhyme or reason and it appears to be a random crime people want to understand and ask what can be done to keep them safe. This sort of thing always fascinates people - it's like a car crash, the details upset you but somehow you can't look away.

“I don't think he's going out to recreate the crimes of Jack The Ripper, but does he know who he is? Almost certainly. But I don't see enough similarity in these cases to be able to say there is re-creation.”

But for the police at the frontline of these investigations, any information, not matter how unconnected it may seem, is gratefully welcomed.

Suffolk's assistant chief constable Jacqui Cheer said all calls would be taken seriously.

She said: “The calls are genuine people trying to help us.

“I think this is such a shocking thing and all avenues are open to us. If someone comes up with something we haven't thought of then we will take it and say thank you. I would say people are genuinely trying to help, I'm not aware of any crank calls.”

Asst chf con Cheer said she expected the force had been approached by mediums and psychics offering to help.

She said: “I am sure we will be contacted by mediums and the senior detectives will deal with that we will know exactly how to deal with them. I think we have to speak to everyone.

“For some people it is difficult to tell police things and so they start with a story and then in the middle of that will be the nugget that we are after.

“The response we have had from people has been fantastic.”


LILIAN Power is an Ipswich based psychologist and psychotherapist. The last week has seen her inundated with interviews from journalists around the country. She said that everyone is desperate to understand why these killings have happened - and that fascination is to be expected.

She said: “When faced with an unpredictable or unknown event, people will try to make sense of it on the basis of what they know. “People find it so difficult to accept incompleteness, and it is important to make sense of this event because it is so awful. But we simply don't have enough information to have anything other than wild guesses about what is happening here.

“People desperately want some clarity about all this horribleness that has gone on and to come to an understanding about what has happened right in the middle of their community. I sympathise with people's need to find clarity and make the world a little less uncomfortable.”

Mrs Power also had some tips for people struggling to cope with the emotions brought on by these murders.

“We need to be talking to each other and it is already interesting that in this community of people who are used to keeping themselves to themselves we are now very good at talking. People are supporting each other very well.”