Prostitutes not deterred by Ipswich kill

Hundreds of prostitutes are failing to seek help for drug habits or take safety precautions six months after their vulnerability was exposed by the Suffolk serial killings, the EDP reveals today.

Hundreds of prostitutes are failing to seek help for drug habits or take safety precautions six months after their vulnerability was exposed by the Suffolk serial killings, the EDP reveals today.

Police last night warned sex workers not to become complacent about their own security, saying that although the December murders were exceptional, violence against vice girls was an everyday reality.

It comes as officers, support organisations and council officials prepare to meet next week to discuss their approach to prostitution.

As many as 600 people - mostly women - continue to work Norfolk's red light districts with some relocating from Ipswich to escape haunting memories of the five women's deaths, according to the Norwich-based Magdalene Group.

Chief Insp Kevin Clarke, from Norfolk police, said: “The Ipswich murders focused our attention very much on the safety of sex workers. But now it is important to maintain that focus.

“We are aware that many of these women face violence on a regular basis but it seems likely the vast majority goes unreported. It is important for us to protect these women while addressing the understandable concerns of communities close to red light districts.

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“It is also important for women to protect themselves and make use of the help that is available.”

Hopes had been raised that media attention surrounding the deaths would encourage working girls to seek help. But the Magdalene Group claims there has been no reduction in the number walking the streets and only a handful are using the support available.

One city prostitute, who at the time of the murders spoke of the violence women risk on a daily basis, yesterday said she had no choice but to continue working. The 22-year-old, who chose not to be named, said: “Of course I am aware of the dangers. I was aware of them before the Ipswich murders.

“Virtually every girl who works the streets has been attacked at some point. But kicking drugs is not easy and there is no other way of finding the money.”

Mair Talbot, project manager at the Magdalene Group, said about 50 women work on the streets with the remainder working from home, over the internet or through adverts in telephone boxes.

She said: “At the time of the murders there were noticeably fewer women on the streets. But over the last six months they have steadily returned.

“We know of several who were based in Ipswich moving to Norwich. They haven't done this through fear but more to escape the negative memories of what happened.

“We still see women working alone as it does not suit them to form groups, which would be safer. It is difficult to know what arrangements they have in place - maybe they do check on each other at the end of each night - but it seems they are continuing to conduct business as usual.

“The work they do has always been dangerous, even before the events of last year. The public may begin to forget the risks these women face and they will continue to place themselves in danger without anybody realising.”

Due to an increase in volunteers, the Magdalene Group has been able to extend its outreach programme from one to two nights a week. It is hoped this will be extended further if more male drivers and female outreach workers can be found.

For information on the group, visit www.themagdalenegroup.org.uk or ring 01603 610256.

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