Suffolk Police handout via Reuters
Photographs of the five murdered prostitutes from Ipswich, from left to right: Tania Nicol, Paula Clennell, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton and Annette Nicholls.
updated 12/18/2006 7:43:01 PM ET 2006-12-19T00:43:01

Police hunting a suspected serial killer following the murders of five prostitutes in eastern England arrested a 37-year-old man on Monday and cordoned off a group of houses.

The man was arrested at his home in Trimley St. Martin, near the port of Felixstowe, Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull said in a brief statement to reporters. He declined to say where the suspect was being held.

“He has been arrested on the suspicion of murdering all five women,” Gull said.

News reports identified the suspect as Tom Stephens, who was quoted in the Sunday Mirror newspaper as saying he knew all five women, and that he had been interviewed four times under caution — meaning that he was regarded as a potential suspect — by police investigating the slayings.

“From the police profiling it does look like me — white male between 25 and 40, knows the area, works strange hours. The bodies have got close to my house,” Stephens was quoted as saying.

“If new information, coincidental information, crops up, I could get arrested,” Stephens was quoted as saying. He added that he was confident he would not be charged.

Trimley is eight miles southeast of Ipswich, where all five victims worked as prostitutes.

Strain on police force
Their naked bodies were found in rural areas near Ipswich, 70 miles northeast of London, over a 10-day span beginning Dec. 2. Three were found near the main road and the rail line between Ipswich and Felixstowe; the other two were discovered near the same road south and southwest of Ipswich.

Video: Suspect arrested in 'Jack the Ripper' case The investigation had strained the resources of England’s smallest police forces, and 340 investigators were brought in from across Britain to join 160 Suffolk officers working on the case.

Earlier Monday, police announced that coroner’s inquests into the deaths of Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls had been postponed.

Clennell, 24, died of compression to her neck, and Alderton, 24, was strangled, a senior pathologist determined. Post-mortem examinations of the bodies of Nicol, 19, and Nicholls, reached no conclusion on the cause of death.

An inquest into the death of Gemma Adams, 25, was opened and adjourned last week. The pathologist reached no conclusion about the cause of her death.

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