Praise for communities' compassion

IPSWICH residents have drawn praise from across the country for the way the town has bounced back from the killings of five women at the end of last year.

IPSWICH residents have drawn praise from across the country for the way the town has bounced back from the killings of five women at the end of last year.

Government leaders in Westminster and Whitehall have been impressed by the level of compassion shown by the Suffolk community for Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls and their families.

Ipswich MP Chris Mole said he had been very concerned that the town could be scarred for a generation by the killings which shocked the country.

“Back in the middle of December I was very worried about the impact of the killings on the town and the residents.

“But it does seem as if 'normality' has returned sooner than we could dare hope.

“No one who lives here will ever forget the dreadful events at the end of last year - and it would wrong if we did forget them. But the town has regained its feeling of normality - people are going out again and I think that is very encouraging.

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“I've had a lot of comments from my colleagues and others in London that they have been impressed by the attitude of the town and Suffolk people in general.

“It might not have been surprising if we had heard unpleasant comments because of the nature of the victims' lives - but that has hardly come out at all.

“People have seen them as tragic victims - and victims of society before they were killed - and that attitude has earned this area a great deal of respect in London.”

Mr Mole felt some of the national attention given to the town had been unfair and misinformed.

“There were one or two really unnecessarily nasty articles about Ipswich in the national newspapers - I didn't think they helped anyone. And it was a bit irritating to hear us described as a city when it isn't that difficult to get the facts straight.

“But overall the town is coping remarkably well - and I understand businesses feel trade has overall not been seriously affected by the events of last month.”

Businesses found that late night shopping had not attracted as many people as in previous years, but shoppers had turned out at other times - especially weekends when Sunday shopping was very popular - during the run-up to Christmas.

Council leader Liz Harsant feels that while the town has regained a sense of normality, the events of the last month remain raw under the surface.

She said: “People are getting on with their lives again now - but these events have changed things. There is a greater understanding of what drives young women on to the streets and I think attitudes towards drugs and prostitution are changing.

“I know, too, that in Nacton where I have family, the events are still very raw - people are still struggling to come to terms with what has happened.”

THREE of the victims who died had connections with the parish of Whitton, and vicar Rev Andrew Dotchin felt the tragic events of end of last year were still being felt in the town.

He said: “I think there has been a lasting effect, and in a sense I would not like to think that everything was now back to exactly how it was before.

“There is now much more of an awareness of the need to work with people who rely on drugs and to help those who do feel the need to work on the streets of Ipswich.”

He had noticed a difference in attitudes among people going about their normal business.

“You will see people staying physically closer to each other - you will see more people in the streets holding hands, and that is something that must be welcomed.

“You will see fathers and daughters going out together - people do feel a need to be close to each other,” he said. “That is a positive to come out of this.”

And he felt that national media coming to Ipswich had found things were not quite as they had imagined.

“I do think some people came to the town expecting to find the ordinary man and woman on the street being judgemental about the victims and found instead that people were sad and concerned about the victims.

“I think the media then had to change their story, and reflect that - and that was a great credit to the town.”

The rector of Nacton and Levington, Canon Geoffrey Grant, said residents of the villages were now starting to recover after the trauma of the last few weeks.

He said: “Things have started to get back to normal, the reopening of the old A45 was a big step for the village.

“I think people didn't realise just how big the situation was at first but once all the police arrived and the focus came on to this area it really hit home.

“And I know residents here had Christmas cards from all over the country, indeed all over the world, saying people were thinking of them at this difficult time.”

Canon Grant said the healing process was helped by the fact that although the bodies were found in the parish, the victims were not actually from Nacton or Levington - and the man who has been arrested was not from the villages.

The fine weather on Sunday brought walkers and cyclists out to Nacton for the first time since the events at the end of last year.

“That was very good to see,” said Canon Grant. “There is a concern that we will get some ghoulish visitors looking for where the bodies were found and we don't want that - but this is a beautiful area and we want people to come and enjoy that beauty.”

The discovery of the bodies had had a major effect on the village schools, especially Amberfield which had to be closed for several days.

And Canon Grant said village residents had developed strong bonds with the police who arrived in the area.

“At first people didn't know what to make of all the police in the area, we aren't used to have police knocking on our doors and asking for information.

“But as the time has gone on, people have got used to the police and they have come to understand us. I think there a mutual respect has built up there,” he said.

IPSWICH borough is have a debate on drug addiction and its links to prostitution in the town at its meeting tomorrow .

The motion gives councillors the opportunity to express their shock and sadness about the killings, their thanks to the police, council employees and members of the public for their help during the investigation, and commits the council to tackle the problem of drug addiction and prostitution in the town.

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