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One charity's aim to create a legacy of hope from Ipswich murders a decade ago

PUBLISHED: 13:01 22 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:49 23 February 2016

Talitha Koum Charity Trustees were joined by the farmer whose land has been donated, the builder working on the project and representatives from Women Together at the rehabilitation centre site near Ipswich

Talitha Koum Charity Trustees were joined by the farmer whose land has been donated, the builder working on the project and representatives from Women Together at the rehabilitation centre site near Ipswich

Almost a decade has past since the infamous murders of five sex workers in Suffolk's county town.

Ipswich prostitute murder victims

Gemma Adams, Annette Nicholls, Anneli Alderton, Tania Nicol and Paula Clennell

Montage by Jon Elsey
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EADT 18 05 07Ipswich prostitute murder victims Gemma Adams, Annette Nicholls, Anneli Alderton, Tania Nicol and Paula Clennell Montage by Jon Elsey ES 28 12 06 ES 30 01 07 ES 2 03 07 ES 14 03 07 EADT 16 03 07 ES 4 04 07 ES 17 05 07 EADT 18 05 07

But while the grim events of 2006 marked a macabre period in Ipswich’s history – which many would like to forget – one charity is looking to create a positive legacy for Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell.

The idea behind Talitha Koum (TK), to help women in the Ipswich area struggling with addiction, had already been raised among the Christian community, but the horrors of those six weeks lent urgency to the plans, which saw fundraising efforts stepped up.

With help from the Ipswich Star’s Somebody’s Daughter campaign, the charity was formed and set to work helping women trapped in the same cycle of addiction that had forced those women onto the streets and ultimately into their killer’s path.

Today, as the 10-year anniversary of the Ipswich murders approaches, TK is making a final fundraising push to secure the completion of the rehabilitation centre that was always its foremost ambition.

Project Director Ken Donaldson talks with builder Toby Downing about the plans for the Talitha Koum rehabilitation centre site near IpswichProject Director Ken Donaldson talks with builder Toby Downing about the plans for the Talitha Koum rehabilitation centre site near Ipswich

Unlike other addiction organisations, TK, which takes its name from an Aramaic bible quote, translated as “little girl, get up”, works only with women.

It says this is important to create an environment in which its clients can be relaxed and forthcoming when discussing their problems.

Project director Ken Donaldson said: “What we want to do is create a different legacy out of the Ipswich murders. One that says this is what happened 10 years ago but look; we as a community have been able to achieve something that’s very positive.

“If we can counteract some of the negativity of that time and make a difference to women’s lives, often helping women like the five who died, who had drug and alcohol addictions, then that’s a really positive step.”

Women Together volunteer Sarah Page and leader Jenny Frost get a tour of a room at the Talitha Koum rehabilitation centre site in Witnesham from Project Director Ken Donaldson.Women Together volunteer Sarah Page and leader Jenny Frost get a tour of a room at the Talitha Koum rehabilitation centre site in Witnesham from Project Director Ken Donaldson.

Mr Donaldson is reluctant to announce a date for the £1.5million project’s completion, but says he is optimistic several large bids to national funding organisations will get to within reaching distance of the financial target.

The charity is always looking for extra support to gain the extra £330,000 currently required.

Already, more than 120 churches in the region have donated to the project as well as 250 individual supporters. Around 90 volunteers also give up their time for free.

“There’s a vast platform of community support for what we are trying to do,” Mr Donaldson said.

Work continues at the Talitha Koum rehabilitation centre site near IpswichWork continues at the Talitha Koum rehabilitation centre site near Ipswich

“The energy, enthusiasm and passion is really quite humbling.”

The centre, on the outskirts of the town, but whose exact location is yet to be publicised, will offer accommodation to 12-14 women at any one time in the later stages of recovery, after detox.

Initial plans were for a large two-storey resource centre and two accommodation blocks to house the women. Now, an interim, scaled-back operation will see one of those accommodation blocks used as the resource centre.

Although it will only accommodate six women to begin with, the project can begin its work much sooner, as one block has already been completed with £150,000 currently spent on construction.

“The exciting thing about this decision is that we can begin work with women sooner,” the charity said in a letter to its supporters.

“We can meet the clamour from the health professionals for such a centre more quickly.

“We can manage more sensibly in a smaller scaled operation; we can expect funding from grant making bodies to be more forthcoming as we demonstrate the success of a smaller operation.”

Mr Donaldson says other groups supporting women with addiction in the Ipswich area are supportive of the plans, telling him there is a “black hole when it comes to these kind of facilities.”

Women staying at the centre will be offered therapy and training sessions to equip them with new skills for their return to wider society when they are free from addiction.

To find out more about the project or to donate visit www.talithakoum.org.uk or call 01473 857432.

Women Together is supporting victims of addiction

Talitha Koum is already supporting women in Ipswich through its Women Together support groups.

Alongside fundraising efforts for the rehabilitation centre, volunteers offer free weekly groups in the town.

Jenny Frost, who leads the group, says it has reached almost 30 women “from all walks of life” since it relaunched in 2014.

“It’s all about self-help,” she said,

“We are not professionals, we don’t provide counselling; it’s women getting together, sharing their stories and supporting one another.”

The groups meet on Mondays from 7.45-9pm at Shepherd Drive Baptist Church and on Thursdays from 1.30pm to 2.30pm at Ipswich Community Church in Clarkson Street.

Women struggling with all forms of addiction are invited to attend whenever they want with assurances of anonymity.

Call 07503 416576 to find out more.

‘Domestic violence can be connected to addiction’

Domestic violence and mental ill health are among the biggest contributors to addictive behaviour in women, according to charity leaders, who say it can affect people from all backgrounds.

Sarah Page (pictured), one of the volunteers at Women Together, says the connection between domestic abuse and addiction is one of the reasons TK works only with women.

“I think the women who are victims of abuse are not comfortable sharing their experiences in a mixed group,” she said.

“The level of problems in Ipswich is huge.”

Ms Page, who is a recovering alcoholic herself, says the effect of domestic violence means certain types of addiction are more prevalent among women, who can be drawn into addiction because of changes in their home life, particularly among middle class families, giving rise to what she calls “net-curtain drinkers”.

“It’s two years since I was freed from addiction and it’s the main reason why I am involved in the charity,” she said.

“In that time I’ve met people from all walks of life.

“From my perspective, I was a professional woman in a successful job, but then children left home, my lifestyle changed and I was attending lots of corporate functions and social events.

“The illness crept up on me; I had been dependent for some time but I was in denial for a number of years.

“It was not until I reached rock bottom that I realised I had to do something about it.”

Around a third of the women attending Women Together groups have had issues with domestic violence and nearly half have reported additional mental health issues.

Ms Frost says the two issues operate in a “vicious cycle”, with conditions such as depression and anxiety leading towards substance misuse, which in turn can worsen their mental health.

It can also make it harder to break that cycle.

“Putting the drink down is the first step, but dealing with everything else is where the work really begins,” Ms Frost added.

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