Victims' spiral into drugs

FIVE women are dead. All were prostitutes. All are known to have been gripped by a drug addiction which snatched away their innocence. Today The Evening Star charts the descent into hell endured by the red-light murder victims - Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls.

FIVE women are dead. All were prostitutes. All are known to have been gripped by a drug addiction which snatched away their innocence. Today The Evening Star charts the descent into hell endured by the red-light murder victims - Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls.

NO ONE knows the horrors of their final minutes.

They died at the hands of a calculating serial killer, their naked bodies dumped in the open and left to the elements.

The youngest was still a teenager, the oldest not even 30. Yet their lives had been tainted with tragedy and dominated by the long shadows of the drug world.

Pictures of the victims from a few years ago show fresh-faced, smiling women hopeful of a happy future.

Yet the pictures of their final days tell an entirely different story. In those pictures drugs and prostitution dominated their lives. The latter had become a necessity to fund the former.

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Parents of the murdered women have told how drugs stole their daughters from them.

Some didn't know of their daughter's habits. Others had fought time and again to help them break away from a life which was destroying them.

Yesterday, Tania Nicol's devastated father told how he lost his daughter to drugs, then to a cruel murderer.

Jim Duell said: “Unfortunately drugs took her away into her own secret world. A world neither of us were aware of.”

Sadly it is a story that many families in Suffolk have told.

The National Treatment Agency says more than 1,360 people accessed regular drug treatment services in Suffolk in 2004/2005, the latest figures available.

The figures tell the stories of those who have faced up to their problem, or been forced to by a criminal justice system which attempts to solve the root causes of crime.

But there are many more whose addiction is crippling every aspect of their lives and has too strong a grip on them to break free of it.

Among the saddest stories are the women who have turned to prostitution to feed their habits. Miss Adams, Miss Nicol, Miss Alderton, Miss Clennell and Miss Nicholls are all believed to have followed that same dangerous route into the sex industry.

Brian Tobin is the co-founder and project manager of the Iceni Project, an Ipswich-based project which helps addicts beat addictions and turn their lives around.

Mr Tobin said he had seen countless lives that had been destroyed by drugs.

He said: “Addiction is such a painful thing.

“People need to realise how painful it is. That's why girls are still working to fill that horrendous need. It's a horrendously potent force.

“When people say 'it's their own fault, it's their choice to be a prostitute', do you think these girls really want to be out on the streets at night?

“These people are extremely vulnerable. Drug addicts need money.”

Mr Tobin said that drugs can be a coping strategy to get through life and most of the people who have reached that far have got a zero self worth.

He said: “It's not a life. It's an appalling and very dangerous industry to work in.”

Miss Adams' parents remembered their daughter as an “ordinary and intelligent” schoolgirl who was bright, bubbly and full of fun.

That all changed when the dark shadow of drugs took control of her life and she entered what they described as a “heroin hell”.

Her story is typical of those who find themselves working in the streets of Ipswich. Often the words “the wrong crowd” emerge when parents and friends try to describe how a popular and intelligent young girl from a good home got caught up in such a seedy side of life.

After the discovery of his daughter's body at Hintlesham, Mr Adams said: “It's every parent's worst nightmare. Once your child is involved with hard drugs, your heart is already broken.”

Friends chart the downward slide of Miss Alderton's young life as beginning with the death of her father.

Her dad Roy was diagnosed with lung cancer when she was about 14 or 15 and when he died her life changed dramatically.

She could no longer face going to Copleston High where she was a student and gradually her life descended into the hell of a drug addict and prostitute.

Her best friend at school, an Ipswich carer for the disabled called Katy, saw the beginning of the drug problem when Anni, as she was known to friends, started using soft drugs like marijuana when she was still at school.

That led on to harder drugs and despite the efforts of friends she never managed to break free from the clutches of the drugs that consumed her life.

Speaking to The Evening Star, Katy said: “It started with marijuana from school. I have been told that she came out of prison on crack.”

Friends watched as a stunning girl who had ambitions of being a model became detached from them and more involved in the destructive circles of drugs and selling sex.

Miss Alderton's mother fought to help her make a new start and, according to friends, Anneli tried several times to kick her habit but the lure always proved too much.

Less is known about how Miss Nicol, Miss Clennell and Miss Nicholls got involved in drugs but their addictions blighted their last days.

Mr Tobin said more needs to be done to help prostitutes beat their addictions.

He said: “It sad it takes such a tragic course of events to get people to act.

“Hopefully people will maybe get to understand because there's a lot of ignorance and naivety.

“We need to deliver better services. We need housing, we need accommodation, we need better housing services.

“There's previously not been the wherewithal or the want to put the resources into girls who work.”

To contact the Iceni Project for help and advise on drug addiction call 01473 214006.

Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team: 01473 265165

WEBLINK

www.suffolkdaat.org.uk

There were 15 drug-related deaths in Greater Suffolk last year.

SUFFOLK'S DRUG NIGHTMARE

More than 3,000 people are estimated to use crack cocaine or heroin, or both, in the county.

Crack cocaine use has steadily been on the increase while the spread of heroin continues.

Of the 30 to 40 prostitutes working on Ipswich's streets, as well as those working in the town's brothels, drug workers estimate 95per cent are working to feed their expensive habits.

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