U.K. police narrow focus in serial killings probe

/ Source: The Associated Press

Police investigating the murders of five prostitutes in a town in eastern England said Saturday they have no formal suspects but are focusing on 50 to 100 people they want to question.

Police also released closed-circuit television footage from the train where one victim, 24-year-old Anneli Alderton, was last seen Dec. 3 — the date of the footage — in an effort to track her movements before her body was found seven days later.

More than 350 officers from forces across Britain are assisting the Suffolk police with the investigation into the killings, which have raised fears for the safety of women around Ipswich. The naked bodies of all five women were found over 10 days.

Assistant Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer of the Suffolk county police said investigators have a list of people to question.

“We have between 50 and 100 people that we’re interested in,” Cheer told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Piecing together a puzzle
“A good way to describe the progress we are making would be to compare the investigation to a jigsaw,” she added. “We have constructed the edges. Now we have to fill in the middle.”

Police Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull said he would not speculate on how many people were being investigated by police. He said no one had been questioned as a suspect.

“We are making good progress,” Gull said, adding that about 8,000 calls had come in to a police hot line. Officers were searching a railway line near the site where two of the bodies were discovered.

Gull said he had been careful not to use the term “serial killer,” and said that detectives were considering whether the five deaths, which have been linked, are the work of one person.

“We have now linked the five deaths,” Gull said. “It’s possible that we’re looking for the same individual, but there may be more involved and I need to keep an open mind.”

Trail of tragic discoveries
Alderton, who had worked as a prostitute, was three months pregnant when her naked body was found in the woods outside Ipswich, about 70 miles northeast of London. Police said they did believe her pregnancy was relevant to the inquiry, “however sad it may be,” Cheer said.

The body of Gemma Adams, 25, was found Dec. 2 in a stream; Tania Nichol, 19, was discovered six days later, in a pond. Alderton was found Dec. 10; the bodies of Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29, were found near a busy road on Dec. 12.

Police have established the cause of death in just two of the five cases: Alderton was strangled, and Clennell died as a result of “compression to the neck.”

Before a soccer match at the Ipswich’s stadium, near the red-light district, the crowd of about 25,000 fell silent for a minute in respect for the victims.

Before a referee’s whistle signaled the start of the silence, the Right Rev. Richard Lewis, bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich, led a prayer for the five women, whose names he slowly read aloud.

“And we pray for ourselves, and our community, as we come to grips, and that there may be peace and justice in our world. Amen.”