Murders - five years on: ‘The girls had to carry on – no matter how dangerous it was’

ipswich: When Tania Nicol went missing five years ago, her disappearance triggered a police operation on a scale never seen before in Suffolk.

Miss Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls all sold their bodies for sex to fund their drug habits.

But they were not alone. There were 32 girls regularly out on Ipswich’s streets, looking for a way to make money.

With a killer loose on the streets of Ipswich and the prospect of more women putting themselves into harm’s way, two female police officers tried to intervene and encourage the girls away from the path of Steve Wright.

Police constables Janet Humphrey and Gemma Fisher bought food and warm drinks for the women, building a relationship with them and learning more about the men who used their services in a bid to help catch the killer.

“At the time, it was such a shock,” Pc Humphrey said. “Prior to the girls disappearing I worked with the girls and knew four of them.

“It made it more personal. With Annette, I knew her best and found it very hard. I had spoken to her many times. It is very sad to think what these women went through.”

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First and foremost their role was to help with the murder investigation, speaking to all the women involved in the sex trade in Ipswich.

Pc Humphrey added: “Our role was to find out their [the girls] experiences, who they met with, who was violent.

“They were very forthcoming, these were women who could not break the cycle.

“They had to carry on coming out onto the streets, night after night, no matter how dangerous it was.

“It was enlightening and gave us real hope.

“But at the same time you felt helpless. It could be very frustrating.

“We would go out, get the girls to sit with us in the car, bring them food. A �15 bag of basic food could keep them off the streets, if only for a night – it was worth it. It might have only been a night, but it kept them safe.”

On December 19 Steve Wright was arrested by detectives. Two days later, on December 21, he was charged with five counts of murder.

The following day at South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in Ipswich, the former fork-lift truck driver was remanded in custody.

n Tell us your experiences of this case at that time. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

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