Strangler: man arrested was ex-police officer
18th December 2006
Victims: Clockwise from top left: Anneli Alderton, Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls
A policeman stands guard in the street where the 37-year-old man is believed to have been arrested
Suspect: Police are believed to have arrested Tom Stephens, a former special constable in the police force.
A man arrested today on suspicion of murdering five prostitutes in Ipswich is a former special constable.
Detectives hunting the Suffolk Strangler seized Tom Stephens, 37, at his home in the village of Trimley St Martin near Felixstowe just before dawn.
Stephens, a Tesco team leader who also works part-time as a taxi driver, was a volunteer police officer in Norwich, Norfolk in the early Nineties.
Yesterday he gave a newspaper interview in which he admitted he was friends with all the victims and had had the opportunity to kill them. The women’s bodies were found in open countryside between 2 and 12 December.
He said he had no alibi but insisted he was innocent. He said he first talked to police on 22 November after the first two women had gone missing. He has an entry on a networking website in which he calls himself “The Bishop”.
Divorced Stephens lives alone in the village three miles from Levington where two of the victims were found. It is next to Trimley St Mary where 17-year-old Vicky Hall lived.
In 1999 the naked body of the sixth-former was found in a water-filled ditch at Creeting St Peter in Suffolk. She had been strangled and her murder remains unsolved.
Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull announced the arrest this morning, saying a man was held at 7.20. He refused to name him officially but added: “He has been arrested on the suspicion of murdering all five women.
“He is in custody and will be questioned later today. As legal proceedings are now active, Suffolk police will not be issuing any further comments or appeals at this stage.”
A massive manhunt was launched after the bodies of Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29, were found just south of Ipswich in less than two weeks.
The bodies were all naked except for jewellery. Officers now have up to four days to question the suspect.
The body of Miss Adams, who went missing on 15 November, was found in a brook at Hintlesham, Suffolk, by a member of the public on 2 December. Miss Nicol’s body was found by police divers searching a stream at Copdock Mill, near Ipswich, on 8 December.
Miss Nicol was last seen after leaving her home in Ipswich on 30 October. The body of Miss Alderton was found in woodland in Nacton, near Ipswich, on 10 December.
On 12 December detectives found the bodies of Miss Clennell and Miss Nicholls near the village of Levington. All the bodies were dumped within a few miles of Trimley, which is just off the main A14 dual carriageway between Ipswich and Felixstowe.
Police officers today guarded the suspect’s address in a cul-de-sac called Jubilee Close and tape was strung in front of the semi-detached house.
At about 11.30am a large police van pulled up in front of the house. Half an hour later forensic teams wearing fulllength white jumpsuits entered the property. They closed the blinds to waiting media who were filming what they were doing.
Concerned neighbours gathered on the street to watch the police activity. Detectives took a vehicle away — believed to be a purple Renault or Peugeot.
They are looking for clues including any “trophies” from the murders. The women’s clothing has not yet been found. Stephens works as a team leader at Tesco in nearby Martlesham.
His father Douglas, who lives in a £360,000 stone cottage just off the A509 between Wellingborough and Kettering, said this afternoon: “I have heard what’s being said on the news and all I am prepared to say is that Tom Stephens is my son.”
Stephens’s former wife Judith was not at home this morning at the terrace house they once shared in the centre of Ipswich. She is believed to be a nurse at the local hospital. She shared the house with him until three years ago when he moved out.
Neighbour Louis Verlaine, 33, said: “I’ve known Judy since I moved here. She’s very neighbourly. We look after each other’s houses when we’re away. This is all a bit of a surprise to everybody.”
Another neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: “Judy is lovely. We’ve been here for five years but we just don’t know the ex-husband.”
The arrest follows one of the most intense manhunts in recent years with hundreds of officers — including Scotland Yard detectives — drafted in to find the serial killer. More than 500 officers from 30 forces are involved in the inquiry (Suffolk police needed the help of police forces from other counties as it is one of the country's smallest police forces).
The murder hotline has received 10,000 calls offering information — and 1,500 calls in the past 24 hours alone.
However police are still desperately trying to fill gaps in the investigation. The know that Miss Alderton and Miss Clennell were asphyxiated or strangled but do not know how the other three died, when they were killed exactly or where. Police were today reconstructing the last known movements of all five women.
Tom Stephens' myspace photos
Is this former police officer the Suffolk Ripper?
This is a picture of Tom Stephens, the suspect arrested over the murders of five prostitutes in Ipswich. It features as part of his profile on networking website www.myspace.com
Tom Stephens's myspace profile features this picture of him posing with a can of custard powder. He also writes that he likes 'most types of days and nights out'
Tom Stephens refers to himself as 'The Bishop' on his profile at www.myspace.com
On his myspace profile, Tom Stephens lists his interests as 'keeping fit' and says his hero is the cartoon character Hong Kong Phooey
Tom Stephens lists his occupation as 'Team Leader' and, under his companies, his entry reads 'Tesco' and then 'from 1997 until they sack me'
Under the 'Here for' section of his myspace profile, Tom Stephens' entry reads: 'dating, serious relationships, friends'. The last time he logged on to the site was October 27 this year
Last edited by Blackleaf; Dec 18th, 2006 at 12:01 PM..