Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Trial of Steve Wright - Local Rumours

There have been a number of rumours about the case, both during the days of the murders, and then later.

In almost all cases, the person telling the story will say something like:

"My neighbour's brother is in the Ipswich CID and he says..."

This is classic urban legend stuff. None the less it'll be interesting to see how many of these stories (if any) turn out to be true. In no particular order:

1) Gemma Warns the Police

A few days before she was killed, Gemma went to the Police with concerns about one of her regular clients. He'd suddenly started asking her rather weird questions like 'Would you like to be famous?' and 'Do you want to be known to millions?"

As someone who knew Gemma a little bit, I can certainly imagine her being sharp enough to do this. But I can't imagine the Police did not act on this evidence.

Prediction: Absolute bollox.

2) The Killer Shaved his Victims Before Disposing of the Bodies

Early on in the investigation, rumours were circulating that the killer was shaving the body hair from his victims before disposing of the bodies. I also heard a variation of the story that claimed he was shaving their heads as well.

I really don't know what to think of this story, although I wonder what condition the bodies of Gemma and Tania would have been in after being immersed in water for several weeks - perhaps some of the hair had gone anyway?

None the less it's an interesting story, and I heard it from several people.

Prediction: True.

3) He Killed in Norwich Too.

The Ipswich killings were merely a chapter in a longer book - in fact the killer used to live in Norwich and killed people there for years before moving to Ipswich.

This seems a variation of the old Ipswich/Norwich rivalry (Norwich police are incompetant they don't realise they have a serial killer on the lose), together with a thin coating of fact, in the team investigating the murders must have been in contact with their colleagues in Norwich and kept them informed in case there was a wider dimension to the killings.

Prediction: Utter bollox.

4) It Was All a Mistake

The killer (who slept regularly with prostitutes and enjoyed their company) enjoyed a sexual fantasy that he was strangling a woman. He often used to gently put his hands around the prostitute's throats while making love to them, and they were used to this and happy for him to do it.

One night, with the lovely Tania, something went wrong and the killer actually found himself strangling her. Before he could stop, his first victim was dead. Overcome with remorse, but also crazed with excitement, the killer can't stop himself and kills over and over again until caught...

I rather like this story, not least because it explains how a 'safe' regular punter can change into crazed serial killer seemingly overnight.

Unfortunately, it has that all-too-neat quality of popular psychology. We want to understand serial killers, and we want to do so in terms brief enough and simple enough for use in the shorthand that is conversation. The reality is that most serial killers remain complete enigmas - even they don't understand why they did it.

It also ignores the facts (such as we know them!) that both Gemma and Tania were not strangled. Or at least the Police made no such claim they were. They also claimed they weren't sexually assaulted. But there were in water for a long time - forensics get much harder when the evidence has literally been washed away.

Prediction: False

5) A Petrol Station Checkout Girl Led the Police to Their Suspect

It's 3:30AM and a car drives up to the petrol station. The solitary man inside buys some petrol, but also tokens for cleaning his car, inside and out! Sure enough he proceeds to clean his car, very throughly indeed. The checkout girl has never ever seen anyone do this before, and his behaviour strikes her as suspicious, bordering on mad. Unless.... Scared now, she' notes the car registration number and calls the Police.

I like this story a lot - it smacks of carefull, organised killer of the early days of the investigation, meticulously covering his tracks. But it also smacks of fear and paranoia, and a basic stupidity.

Sadly, I've also heard a variation on the same theme, whereby it's the killer's neighbours who raise the alarm after he's seen vacuum cleaning his car at 3:30AM. Of course it's possible that he cleaned his car more than once late at night, once in the petrol station, and at least once outside his house.

Prediction: Maybe True

It'll be interesting to see how many, if any, of these stories are true.



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