Murder suspect forced to quit police job

Murder suspect Tom Stephens was forced to quit as a special constable with Norfolk police over his inappropriate involvement with prostitutes, the EDP can reveal today.

Murder suspect Tom Stephens was forced to quit as a special constable with Norfolk police over his inappropriate involvement with prostitutes, the EDP can reveal today.

Officers in Suffolk yesterday arrested the 37-year-old in a dawn raid on his home in Trimley, near Felixstowe, in connection with the deaths of the five prostitutes whose bodies were found dumped naked at villages near Ipswich. He was last night still being questioned at a police station which has not been identified for security reasons.

Stephens, who grew up in Norfolk, living at Blofield Heath and attending Hemblington Primary and Thorpe St Andrew High School, served as a special constable based at Norwich's Bethel Street police station from 1992.

But in 1997 Stephens - whose official police number was Special Constable One - left under a cloud following a series of allegations about his involvement with a city prostitute. A spokesman for Norfolk police yesterday refused to comment on Stephens' time with the force or the reasons for his departure.

Yesterday forensics experts remained at the home where Stephens had lived for just a few weeks. A small purple car, believed to be a Renault Clio, was carried away on a transporter for further exam-ination. Officers also visited his mother's home at Eye, Suffolk. A police car stood guard at his brother's house in Sprowston, Norwich.

Residents in Trimley said he moved there two or three months ago after the break-up of his eight-year marriage. Police had already visited his flat, in a block of four in a brick house, in recent weeks.

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Neighbours at the Blofield Heath home where he grew up with his teacher mother Ellen and younger brother Jack spoke of their shock at the arrest and described them as a “respectable” family.

In an earlier newspaper interview, Stephens said he had been visiting Ipswich's red light district for 18 months and saw himself as the girls' “protector”. He said he had been interviewed by police and feared he would be arrested as he had no alibi.

Announcing the arrest, det chief supt Stewart Gull said: “Detectives investigating the murder of five women in the Ipswich area have arrested a man.

“He has been arrested on suspicion of murdering all five women - Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls. The man is currently in custody at a police station in Suffolk where he will be questioned about the deaths.”

In the newspaper interview Stephens, a team leader for Tesco for the past nine years who previously worked as a taxi driver, admitted knowing all of the murder victims and described them as “the five best-looking prostitutes in Ipswich”.

He said: “Of the girls who went missing Tania was the one I was closest to. Gemma I was pretty close to, along with the others. Some of them are still out there and I should be watching over them.

“Annette thought we were together. We weren't boy-friend and girlfriend but I was the closest thing she had to a boyfriend and in behaviour she was the closest thing I had to a girlfriend but I didn't love her.”

The bodies of all five women were found in isolated locations near Ipswich during a 10-day period earlier this month.

Post-mortem examinations have revealed that Miss Alderton was strangled and Miss Clannell died as a result of “compression” to the neck. The cause of death of the other three women is unclear and police are waiting for the results of toxicology tests.