updated 12/22/2006 4:30:29 AM ET 2006-12-22T09:30:29

Authorities charged a 48-year-old man with the murder of five prostitutes whose bodies were recovered near this English town earlier this month, police said Thursday.

Police identified the suspect as Steve Wright, who lived in the town’s red-light district and was taken into custody Tuesday.

A 37-year-old man arrested on Monday — identified by news reports as Tom Stephens — was released, police said.

All five victims had been working as prostitutes, and their naked bodies were found in rural areas around Ipswich over a period of about 10 days beginning Dec. 2.

Three of the bodies were found near the main road and the rail line between Ipswich and Trimley; the two others were discovered near the same road in areas south and southwest of Ipswich.

Washed car thoroughly, inside and out
The British Broadcasting Corp. and other media reported earlier that Wright worked as a forklift driver and had lived in the area since September. Neighbors said the man was often seen washing his dark blue Ford Mondeo inside and out.

News reports identified Stephens as a part-time taxi driver, supermarket worker and former volunteer police officer. He was quoted in an interview with the Sunday Mirror newspaper as saying he knew all the victims, and regarded himself as their protector.

News of the arrest came a day after an inquest into the deaths of Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell, and Annette Nicholls. An inquest into the death of the fifth victim, Gemma Adams, 25, was held last week.

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, 29, reached no conclusion on the cause of death.

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