Former city landlord accused of murder

Former Norwich landlord Steve Wright appeared in court accused of five murders yesterday as police continue to investigate the possible involvement of second suspect Tom Stephens in the prostitutes' deaths.

Former Norwich landlord Steve Wright appeared in court accused of five murders yesterday as police continue to investigate the possible involvement of second suspect Tom Stephens in the prostitutes' deaths.

Wright, 48, of London Road, Ipswich, was driven to Ipswich magistrates court in a police van flanked by two squad cars.

He was dressed smartly in a black suit - paid for by Suffolk police - and spoke only to confirm his personal details.

Wright is charged with the murders of Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29.

The five women were found dead near villages south of Ipswich during a 10-day period earlier this month.

His solicitor said no decision had yet been taken on whether he would admit the charges. Wright was remanded in custody.

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Prior to the hearing, Wright's solicitor, Paul Osler, said: “Of course anybody accused of these sorts of offences is going to experience trauma, but he is bearing up well.

“Anything to do with the case, facts and evidence is for the courtroom. I would remind everybody about the presumption of innocence.”

Mr Osler said Wright had been treated well in police custody.

“They treated him in a very civilised fashion. He was given proper clothing and washing facilities and provided with cigarettes.

“He has no complaints about the way he was treated.”

He said he was not in a position to indicate whether Wright is likely to enter a plea at the next hearing.

“I am not able to indicate at this stage and you should read nothing into that,” he said.

Mr Osler described the case as “one of the most serious in UK history” and said he was in the process of appointing a legal team.

Meanwhile Stephens, the first man arrested in connection with the deaths following a dawn raid on his home in Trimley, near Felixstowe, on Monday, was lying low after being released on police bail pending further inquiries.

His flat was empty and had been stripped of all furniture and fittings and there was nobody at his mother's home in Eye or his brother's home in Sprowston, near Norwich.

Both men have strong Norfolk links. Wright was born in the county and ran the Ferry Boat Inn in the heart of Norwich's red light district in 1988, while Stephens was brought up in Norfolk where he served as a special constable.

But police continue to play down potential links with the deaths of prostitutes in Norfolk over recent years.

Earlier this week Insp Jamie Ayers said the deaths of Natalie Pearman in 1992 and Michelle Bettles in 2002 along with the disappearance of Kellie Pratt in 2000 were being re-examined in light of the arrests.

But a statement for Norfolk Police said: “It appears an officer made an unhelpful comment to the press which he now regrets and he will be given words of advice.

“Norfolk Constabulary wants to re-confirm that its position has not changed.

“We are not linking the investigations into the deaths of Michelle Bettles, Natalie Pearman and the disappearance of Kellie

Pratt into the ongoing Suffolk inquiry at this time.

“However, Norfolk police will be liaising with officers in Suffolk and assisting with as much information as possible.”