The media masses

MARTLESHAM'S media scrum doubled in size today, and hotels started to sell out as journalists flocked in to keep the eyes of the world trained on Suffolk.

MARTLESHAM'S media scrum doubled in size today, and hotels started to sell out as journalists flocked in to keep the eyes of the world trained on Suffolk. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING reports from the scene.

THEIR collars turned up against the cold, clapping gloved hands together, the media masses wait under the bright camera lights piercing the gloom.

All the news crews are today desperate for a new angle on the macabre story which is gripping both Suffolk and the world. Each knows that this is biggest news that many of them have tackled since the London bombings.

The horror of the Suffolk Strangler comes at a time when other news traditionally wanes in the build up to Christmas - and today there doesn't seem much else to distract the news machine from its Ipswich focus.

Before dawn broke, the big guns of British news had once again gathered at Martlesham police headquarters. Famous newscasters were not yet around, but the BBC and Sky News had secured prime positions. Some crew had slept overnight in camper vans parked outside the reception office, while others had struggled to find beds in hotels already bursting with journalists.

When I arrived at police headquarters at 7am, there was already double the media presence compared to that time yesterday.

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The spectacle included a dozen white broadcast vans, with aerials and satellite dishes stacked on their roofs pointing skywards. Trails of wire criss cross the grass, and inside the vans, men in anoraks monitor rafts of glowing tv screens as they keep in touch with their studio base.

The vans were flanked by a line of five white canopies, erected to provide shelter for interviews.

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke was preparing to talk to Sky News in his latest interview urging women to stay safe. It wouldn't be long before he was poached by the newshounds next door.

He said: “The camera crews see you doing an interview, they listen in, and when you have finished they suddenly grab you and say 'can you do one for us?' It is quite an experience.”

Many news crews decided to stay in Ipswich when it became obvious this story would run and run.

I heard of one BBC reporter who arrived at a press conference with only the clothes she stood up in.

She was asking if there was a supermarket nearby, and arrived the next day kitted out in a £15 outfit from Tesco - including a bobble hat which she declared was 'wonderfully warm.'

Tracey Rose from PR Catering in Ipswich had been called in by police to cater for the hungry hoards. The smell of cooking from her van had drawn a small queue between bulletins, eager for coffee and tea - with piles of bread rolls stacked in a corner ready for bacon later.

Tracey said: “It is quite bizarre. I keep hearing people order teas and I recognise their voices from the news, so I have to look twice.”

The BBC has five staff at Martlesham and another five at Nacton. None of them know how long they will stay. One cameramen who drives in from Banbury to cover the story every day, said: “It's all about the level of interest that's there. We are servants of the public and we have to deliver what they want.”

A Sky News cameraman told me how he had to stay in a hotel at Felixstowe, as he found all Ipswich hotels were booked up by yesterday.

Sky has stationed 25 staff in Ipswich, including 12 at Martlesham.

Producer Emma Storey said: “This is the biggest national story outside of 7/7, so we are broadcasting on a rolling basis.”

To deliver presenter Lorna Dunkley's regular reports to the world, a small army of staff including engineers, cameramen, producers and sound engineers, are working shifts from 6am to midnight.

A police press officer walks round with a clipboard, scheduling the day's interview slots with the major officers in the case.

At 8am on the dot, detective chief superintendent Stewart Gull walks out of the front door, to talk to the BBC's Dermot Murnaghan.

A helicopter circles overhead as Dermot quickly checks his notes, then begins to ask questions about how the detectives now need to find the dead women's clothes.

Today there are many questions burning in the minds of the media, and the public at large, which the throng of journalists in Ipswich will be intent on asking.

SCRAMBLING up a muddy embankment at Nacton, is another cameraman wielding equipment.

Two men and a woman are already stationed at the top with tripods, their long lenses trained across an empty stubble field. He will have to find a free spot among the tangle of wires.

The camera crews are just yards from the relentless stream of traffic heading towards Ipswich on the A14, their broadcast vans parked below in the sliproad which has been cordoned off by police.

Just visible through trees in the distance, are the two white tents marking the sites where the latest bodies were discovered.

Two copses of trees closer to the roadside are surrounded by lines of blue and white 'police enquiry' tape, each guarded by an officer.

From this distance, at this time, there seems to be little activity around the sinister sites where the bodies were dumped. I wonder how long the police have been standing in that bleak, barren field, and how long the camera crews will stay.

The cameras shift slightly every time they spot the reflective jackets of police moving. A helicopter circles overhead. This is what the world is watching, and one thing's for sure; the first signs of any development will be broadcast in seconds.

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