Norwich detectives investigate killings

DETECTIVES in Norwich are today investigating whether the unsolved murders of two City prostitutes and the disappearance of another are linked to the Suffolk serial killings.

DETECTIVES in Norwich are today investigating whether the unsolved murders of two City prostitutes and the disappearance of another are linked to the Suffolk serial killings.

Natalie Pearman, 16, was found strangled on the outskirts of Norwich in 1992 and Michelle Bettles, 22, died in similar circumstances 10 years later.

A third Norwich prostitute, Kellie Pratt, 29, disappeared from the red light area of the city six years ago and has never been found.

The news comes as Suffolk detectives were given a further 24 hours to quiz 37-year-old Tom Stephens, before they must either charge or release him.

Stephen is the first man arrested in connection with the deaths of Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Annelie Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls.

Inspector Jamie Ayers of Norfolk Police said the three Norwich cases had always remained open, but confirmed that a senior police officer had now been assigned to each one.

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He said: "We carry on searching and if there is any help that we can possibly give to Suffolk we will endeavour to do our best."

Forensic teams are set to continue examining the homes of the two arrested men today - named unofficially as Tom Stephens, 37, of Trimley St Martin, and Steve Wright, 48, of London Road, Ipswich - as more than 500 officers continue to work on the investigation.

Detectives can question Stephens until tomorrow and can potentially question Wright until Saturday.

Officers could opt to release either or both men on bail then resume questioning at a later date.

Stephens was arrested at his home early on Monday and Wright at his home early on Tuesday.

Police have refused to comment on whether they have established any links between the two men.

Officers from more than 31 forces are involved in the inquiry - one of the biggest seen in the UK.

They are analysing more than 10,000 pieces of information provided after public appeals and checking more than 10,000 hours of CCTV footage seized in and around Ipswich.

However Suffolk police today revealed they have no idea how much the investigation has cost so far and the Home Office has told the Evening Star that a request for financial assistance is yet to be made.

Sources said Stephens, who worked at the Tesco store at Martlesham, was a former Norfolk special constable and a former taxi driver.

Wright, who ran a pub in Norwich in the late 1980s, worked as a forklift truck driver until a few weeks ago. In recent weeks he is thought to have been working in a factory.

It has also understood that scaffolding and sheeting was placed around 79 London Road due to fears a news organisation gained access to a home immediately opposite.

The Ipswich scaffolding firm that erected the structure has been put on 24-hour alert by police in the event of further forensic searches of homes in the area.

Gary Barker, director of OBO Scaffolding, told The Evening Star that his firm was asked to put up the structure on Tuesday afternoon, around ten hours after the address was raided as part of the Suffolk killings investigation.

Police have reopened the Old Felixstowe Road, near where the bodies of Miss Alderton, Miss Clennell and Miss Nicholls were found.

Two roads leading off the carriageway remain closed to the public.

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