Prostitutes murder case man in court

Steve Wright - the Ipswich man accused of killing five women in Suffolk - will stand trial after pleading not guilty to five murder charges yesterday.

Steve Wright - the man accused of killing five women in Suffolk - will stand trial after pleading not guilty to murder charges yesterday.

In his first appearance before Ipswich Crown Court, Norfolk-born Wright spoke only to confirm his name and to deny the killings of Tania Nicol, 19, Gemma Adams, 25, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29.

The bodies of the five women, who all worked as prostitutes, were found in villages on the outskirts of Ipswich during a 10-day period last December.

Wright, of London Road, Ipswich, was arrested four days before Christmas and 24 hours after former Norfolk special constable Tom Stephens was taken into custody. Mr Stephens, of Trimley St Martin, Suffolk, remains on police bail as officers continue to consider potential charges against him.

Wright arrived at court at about 9.30am in a prison van flanked by police cars and motorbikes. A cordon of officers was set up around the court building. The three-hour hearing was later told there had been no signs of public outrage or "lynch mob" mentality.

Relatives and friends of the women attended and, for some, it was their first glimpse of the 49-year-old former landlord of Norwich's Ferry Boat Inn. Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and blue tie he looked tired but remained composed throughout.

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More than 40 journalists attended and interest in the case was such that a separate courtroom with a video link had to be set up to accommodate all members of the media.

Wright's father Conrad, 70, from Felixstowe, was in court for the three-hour hearing, and sat among the other relatives.

A provisional date of January 14 has been set for the trial which will last for up to eight weeks. It will see two of the biggest names in the legal world go head to head with Peter Wright QC - who helped bring Harold Shipman to justice in 2000 - acting for the prosecution and Timothy Langdale QC - who prosecuted the killer of Sarah Payne - acting for the defence.

Wright looks set to be tried before a jury drawn from his own community after Mr Justice Calvert-Smith resisted an attempt by defence counsel to have the trial moved to London or another part of the country. However, the judge indicated he may review this decision at a later date.

Most of the afternoon was taken up with legal arguments. The court heard that prosecutors are still sifting through thousands of pieces of evidence including the transcripts of 1,200 phone calls and 1,500 statements given to police. They are also examining DNA samples, security camera footage and awaiting the results of pathology tests.

Wright is currently detained at high security Belmarsh Prison.

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