Friday, February 08, 2008

The Ipswich Murders Trial - Days 17 and 18

A dramatic day, as the defence begins and calls Steve Wright into the witness box.

Remember this is the man who said nothing in his own defence but ‘no comment’ for 8 hours and 10 minute spread over 10 interviews in 2 days...

I wish I’d been in court to see Wright’s body language and hear his tone of voice. Certainly on paper he seems lucid, and his story makes a kind of sense. Reports in the papers today say he gave his evidence ‘calmly.’

Timothy Langdale leads the defence and asks the jury to treat Wright as just another witness, albeit a special one. Surely a forlorn hope; it must be psychologically impossible.

Langdale starts Wright off with some easy stuff; his name, his address, and then some questions that sketch an outline of his life.

The product of a broken home, the unqualified young Steve left school at 16 and went to sea. It was during his time on ships that he was introduced to the thrills of commercial sex, presumably in some foreign port. For a while in the early 1980s he was a steward on board the QE2.*

In the 80s he left the merchant navy and worked in pubs, eventually becoming a pub manager in South London and East Anglia.** Along the way he married twice and had son by his first marriage.

Things started to go wrong in the early 00’s – Wright gambled heavily on horses and got into bad debts. For some reason he went to Thailand for 10 weeks around this time, and was declared bankrupt soon after his return.

The bankruptcy helped him to sort out his finances and he registered with a local job agency. He seems to have been a good worker; in the summer of 2006 he held down two jobs and doesn’t seem to have spent any significant time out of work.

But he’s not an honest man.

During the time of his financial troubles he got convicted for theft. That was the reason his DNA was on the database, and what enabled the Police to arrest him once they’d matched his DNA to at least two of the victims. Recently he’s also been convicted of speeding and lost his licence.

He met his current partner, Pam in 2000 – she’s 8 years older than him. She has a son. In answering several questions, Wright sketched a picture of steadily declining sex life for the pair of them, and by the time of the murders they were living separate lives with Pam working nights and Steve working days. They were still sharing the same bed.

So what about his knowledge of the victims?

According to Wright, he started off using massage parlours (there are at least two of these places in Ipswich) but discovered that street prostitutes were cheaper.

Then came the move (forced by circumstances) from one part of Ipswich into another – London Road. Wright claims that he didn’t know it was a red light area, which begins to strain credibility, although you seldom if ever see working girls by day (I heard that this was some kind of unofficial deal between the sex workers and the Police).

There were two other items in Wright’s initial testimony that were disturbing – he knows and has regularly driven both of the roads along which bodies were found, although he denies knowledge of the Belstead Brook area.

After this extended introduction, we get down to the details; Wright admits picking up prostitutes after indulging in his main passion in life – golf. From one every six months or so, Wright start using them much more when he moved to London Road. He says he got inspired by seeing the girls out on the streets when driving his partner, Pamela to work to start her night shift at around 10pm. This seems plausible.

He seems to have really rather enjoyed his whole ‘double life’ with the prostitutes; from the cruising around in the small hours while his wife was at work, to the selection of a suitable girl, to the negotiation over the price. Between early October and December 19th (arrest day) he’d had sex without ‘about 12’ different prostitutes, and occasionally had used the same one.

Of those few women, five are now dead.

The venue for full penetrative sex (so he claims) was his car the dark blue Mondeo, which he says he’s proud of. A key detail is his squeamishness about used condoms. He couldn’t stand touching them with his bare hands, so put on work gloves to chuck them out of the car window.


But it does explain the presence of semen and victim’s DNA on the gloves found in the car and the flat.

After a while, the joys of Mondeo sex started to pale or rather Steve suffered from cramp (another plausible detail). So he started driving the girls back to the flat in London Road. The flat seems rather well designed for getting girls in and out discreetly – there’s a parking bay around the back accessible from the flat by French windows. Strangely, Wright was always discreet getting the girls into the flat, and yet he let them out through the front door pretty much directly onto London Road.

Once in the flat, cramp or not, the sex was hardly cosy. He was worried about his partner, Paula ‘smelling’ the presence of another woman in their bed, so he used to spread his coat and high visibility jacket on the bedroom floor as a kind of blanket. Once again this is an interesting detail, as it explains the presence of victim’s DNA and fibres on both garments.

Another telling detail:

Convicted thief Steve was worried about theft; he never trusted the girls 100% when they were in his home and they weren’t allowed to wander. Presumably he never left them alone for more than a minute or two.

Sex in the house meant the girl stripped naked; in the car it was just pants down. It was just straight sex, no neck compressions, smothering, or activities like that. No violence either.

So what of the victims?

Tania Nicholl

Wright picked up Tania Nichol on October 30th 2006 and accepts the CCTV footage captured that night is probably him doing so. But she had some acne on her face (Tania was only 19) which was so off-putting that it killed his passion. I wonder was that acne a death sentence? Wright would say no, he merely so he drove her a short distance, told her he’d changed his mind, and dropped a (presumably slightly annoyed) Tania off where she disappeared into the night, to be found again weeks later, naked in a stream.

What of the fact that Wright’s Modeo was spotted by a number plate recognition camera a hour or two later, heading out of town? He said he suffered from insomnia and would sometimes go out for a drive… When directly asked was he on his way to dispose of Tania’s body, Wright replied ‘No way.’

Gemma Adams

Steve met Gemma on the 13th, or 14th or 14th and 15th of November 2006. The Police believe Gemma went missing late on the 14th or in the early hours of the 15th. They had sex in his car, and in a strange little detail, he accidentally set off the car alarm when disposing of the condom. They then drove back to Handford Road where Gemma got out and he left her there.

She was not seen again until weeks later her naked body was found floating in a brook. Gemma was prone to the odd spot or two on her face.

Wright’s reaction to hearing of the disappearance of the girls is extraordinary. To begin with he claims he doesn’t read the papers but seldom watches the news either. Then he’s vague about photographs the Police showed him when they stopped him for kerb crawling a few days later. Then he claims that in any case he wouldn’t have gone to the Police because of Pam.

I find this incredible; surely even the dimmest bulb would be intensely interested in a case where two women you've recently picked up and had sex with have probably been murdered?

Anneli Alderton

Wright’s not sure when he picked up Anneli but thinks it was probably December 3rd. They went back to the flat for sex, and Alderton was inside for about 20 minutes. He saw her out and never saw her again.

She wasn’t seen again until Sunday December 10th when her naked body, placed in a ‘crucifix position’ was found close to a road near Nacton, where the agency that employed Steve Wright is based.

A hour or two after Anneli left his flat, the cameras picked up the dark blue Mondeo heading out of town. Insomnia again, claims Wright.

Annette Nichols

Wright can’t remember when he had sex with Anette, the oldest of his victims aged 29. It was back to the flat for sex, probably the night of December 8th/9th. Traces of Annette’s blood were found on the high vis jacket, which Wright can’t explain. She was inside for about 20-30 minutes, and when she left she was fine.

She was less fine when discovered naked near a road close to Levington. Outstretched in a ‘crucifix position’ her body was within 200m of Paula Clennell.

Paula Clennell

Paula was probably picked up by Steve Wright on the evening of the 10th/11th of December, at the height of the investigation and intense police activity in the red light district. He can’t remember when or where he picked her up, but he doesn’t deny he did and they had sex in his flat. He says she told him she’d bitten her tongue earlier in the day, which presumably may explain the traces of her blood on his hi-vis jacket.

Paula’s naked body appeared to be hastily dumped by the side of the Old Felixstowe road near Levington.

There were a few other details; Wright claims to have slept with one other prostitute before his arrest on December 19th. The ‘no comment’ answer to every question was from him taking the advice of a solicitor who has since been replaced.


So ended the friendly questioning of Steve Wright.

Perhaps the best, maybe the only chance we’ll get to hear the man explain what the hell went on.

It’s a grubby little story of deceit and bad sex in domestic squalor or the sticky plastic of a car interior. For a moment or two, before the prosecution cross examination begins, it sort of flaps there bright and fragile as the striped tape the Police use when they first discover a crime scene.

And then Mr Timothy Wright begins his cross examination… I’ll tell you about later.


* One of the wilder stories that appeared in a tabloid after Wright’s arrest linked him with the disappearance of London estate agent Suzie Lamplugh in 1986. Allegedly Lamplugh also worked on the QE2 in 1980. Lamplugh has never been found (she was officially declared dead in 1994) and the case remains unsolved despite a 10 week ‘cold case’ review in 1999.

** Many media stories have pointed out that this pub is in the middle of the red light district there, and during the landlord Wright era, time a two or three prostitutes are went missing and have never been seen or heard of since.



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