Friday, February 15, 2008

The Ipswich Murders Trial - Days 18 and 19

Apologies for the lack of reporting – I’ve been working in the small hours of the morning this week and haven’t really adjusted to it yet so I’m tired.

Prosecutor Peter Wright QC laid into Steve Wright’s story with gusto. I’m too tired to do more than report a few highlights here, as Wright’s story is so flimsy.

Anyone with a bit of common sense and familiar with the evidence could tear it apart. Wright does himself no favours with his grudging answers, that often consist terse phrases like “Apparently not,” and “It would appear so, yes.” He doesn’t seem to realise that he’s left the police interrogation rooms now and is on trial with a life in prison ahead of him if he doesn’t convince.

He doesn’t convince.

Perhaps the key admissions came on day 19 (Tuesday) when the trial resumed. Wright couldn’t explain how blood flecks from Paula Clennell came to be on the backseat of his Mondeo, and on his high-vis jacket. Paula’s face had a recent scratch on it.

The defence does it’s best.

The key individual is a man called Tom Stephens, who was well known to Ipswich prostitutes, and who knew all the victims. Amongst his more eccentric activities, he used to act as a sort of ‘friend’ as well as a client to many of them, and ferry them about in his car. He spent hours in the red light area and was always good for a cigarette, or a lift, or a loan. A tabloid even claimed he once held a party for several sex workers in his house in the village of Trimley Saint Martin (such an English name! – straight from the pages of John Wyndham or Daphne du Maurier). Trimley is close to where three of the victims were found.

For a time Stephens seems to have been the police prime suspect, and his behavior during the last couple of weeks of the trial was eccentric to the point of madness. He was giving interviews to journalists, leaving memorial flowers tied to lampposts, complaining of feeling suicidal, and visiting the police portacabin at the end of London Road to tell them his theories. Not surprisingly he under surveillance and was held by the police for two days. They also took his DNA, and gave his house the full forensic treatment.

The forensic treatment is key, as I suspect as recently as 15 years ago it might have been Tom Stephens in the dock, while Steve Wright managed to restrain himself and go back to piloting a fork lift truck. But today we have the hard science of DNA, and quite simply there was no evidence of him found on any of the victims.

If there is ever a film made of the Ipswich killings, the writer might portray Stevens as a figure of fun, a tragic/comedic clown, the character who’s stupid antics lighten up the flat winter landscape of Steve Wright and his victims. But Stevens is more sinister than that. The court heard statements from “Miss L” who met him through a lonely hearts column. When they had sex Tom suggested they use a “safe word” as he liked to pin her down with his hands on her neck. When she (surprisingly) decided Stephens wasn’t the man for her, she had to change her telephone number and he got a restraining order.



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