Dad asks police: 'Did Suffolk Strangler kill my Michelle?'

John Bettles at the grave of his daughter Michelle in Earlham Cemetery. Picture: Neil Didsbury

John Bettles at the grave of his daughter Michelle in Earlham Cemetery. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

The father of a Norwich sex worker murdered 20 years ago has called for serial killer Steve Wright to be looked at by police as a suspect.

Michelle Bettles, 22, disappeared from the city's red light district in March 2002 with her body being discovered in woodland 200 yards from the A47 at Scarning, near Dereham a few days later.

Michelle Bettles whose body was found near to the A47 at Scarning after she had gone missing in 2002.

Michelle Bettles whose body was found in woodland near the A47 at Scarning in 2002. - Credit: supplied

Speaking days before what would have been Michelle's 42nd birthday, her father John, 65, said developments in the 1999 murder of 17-year-old Suffolk girl Victoria Hall had got him thinking again about what happened to his daughter.

It is understood Suffolk strangler Wright, who is serving a whole-life tariff for the murders of five women in Ipswich in 2006, was arrested last month on suspicion of murdering Miss Hall.

Steve Wright was found guilty of killing five women in 2008 Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Convicted Suffolk serial killer Steve Wright - Credit: Archant

Mr Bettles, who now lives in Lincolnshire, said he thinks Wright - who has previously been ruled out of any links to Michelle's case - should be looked at again.

He said: "Definitely, I think he should be looked at again.

"It does get the grey matter going every time something like this comes up."

Wright, who was born in West Beckham, Norfolk took over as landlord of the Ferry Boat pub in Norwich in 1988.

The former Ferry Boat Inn pub in Norwich has finally been bought - and is going to be a development

The former Ferry Boat pub in Norwich where Steve Wright used to work. - Credit: Archant

The pub, which has since closed, had been a haunt for prostitutes and is somewhere Mr Bettles recalls his daughter having previously visited.

He said: "I do know the Ferry Boat (pub) where he used to be and know Michelle went in there a few times.

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"Police say he wasn't active at the time in Norwich but unless he was locked up or in hospital as far as I'm concerned he was active.

"There's nothing to stop anyone driving into Norwich just as I do.

"I think the whole thing needs to be looked at again.

"I think at the time they (the police) were running around like headless chickens."

Michelle was last seen during the early hours of Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29, 2002.

CCTV shot of Michelle Bettles before she went missing. Photo: Norfolk Police

CCTV shot of Michelle Bettles before she went missing. Photo: Norfolk Police

On the Sunday morning of that Easter weekend, Michelle's body was found in woodland by the side of a country track in Scarning, near Dereham. She had been strangled.

Flowers left at the woods near Dereham where the body of Michelle Bettles was discovered. Photo: Arc

Flowers left at the woods near Dereham where the body of Michelle Bettles was discovered. Photo: Archant - Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant.

But exactly what happened to Michelle after she was captured on CCTV walking along St Benedict's Street at about 8.20pm on March 28 and the morning of March 31, 2002 remains a mystery. 

Michelle Bettles' murder remains unsolved. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary

Michelle Bettles' murder remains unsolved. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary

With next year the 20th anniversary of Michelle's murder, Mr Bettles said he hoped someone would one day be caught for what had happened.

John Bettles visiting the site in 2004 where his daughter's body was found. Photo: Archant

John Bettles visiting the site in 2004 where his daughter's body was found. Photo: Archant - Credit: EDP / Archant © 2004

He said: "The hopes are that one day we will be in a court room and there will be a sentence passed.

"There isn't a day that goes by that we don't think about Michelle.

"We should be looking to go down for her birthday.

"It would be nice to see her and have a family meal but instead we need to book into a hotel because we need to be near to her grave which we haven't been to in over a year because we couldn't get down last year due to Covid."

Mr Bettles said what happened to Michelle did so "a lot of years ago" and wanted those who might have been around in those circles but who have got older, maybe married or have children of their own to now speak to police.

He said: "If they know something, please come forward.

"There's more than one person who knows about this - there's got to be."

A spokesman for Norfolk Police said: "There is currently no evidence to suggest that there is any connection between the murder of Michelle Bettles and the convicted murderer Steve Wright.

“We continue to keep an open mind and would ask anyone with new information to help us solve this murder. We understand that at the time people may not have been able to come forward but circumstances can change over time.”

Information to Norfolk Police at unsolvedcasereviews@norfolk.pnn.police.uk or Andy Guy, unsolved case manager on 01953 423819.

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