Serial killer taunts police

The manhunt for East Anglia's serial killer took a chilling twist last night as two further bodies were found less than a mile from a key site in the police investigation.

The manhunt for East Anglia's serial killer took a chilling twist last night as two further bodies were found less than a mile from a key site in the police investigation.

Yesterday's discoveries - thought to be the bodies of missing prostitutes Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29 - bring the death toll in Ipswich to five and make it one of the most rapid series of murders in British history.

Miss Clennell is known to have been alive as recently as Sunday meaning the killer has seemingly struck within 48-hours - and under the glare of one of the most high profile police investigations of recent years.

Suffolk's most senior officer described the five deaths within six weeks as “unprecedented”. Chief constable Alastair McWhirter said: “If you think of the Yorkshire Ripper, the murders took place over a long period of time.”

A forensic psychologist said investigating officers were now being “taunted”. Dr Keith Ashcroft, an expert in sex crimes, said the person responsible probably had a grudge against police and was flaunting his crimes under their noses.

Both bodies were found in Levington, a village south of Ipswich and just hundreds of yards from Nacton where officers were continuing to examine the crime scene where 24-year-old Anneli Alderton's strangled corpse was discovered on Sunday.

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Her death followed those of fellow vice girls Gemma Adams, 25, found on December 2 in woodlands at Hintlesham, and Tania Nicol, 19, discovered in nearby Copdock on December 8. All the finds were within five miles of one another and close to the A14.

Det Chf Supt Stewart Gull described the situation as “very grave”. He said officers were not yet in a position to formally identify the two women but said it was the “natural assumption” they were those of Miss Clennell and Miss Nicholls.

Mr Gull said: “Just after 3.05 this afternoon we were contacted by a member of the public who reported seeing what he thought was a female naked body on the old Felixstowe road near to Suffolk Police Headquarters.

“As a result of that we deployed a helicopter and shortly after, a second body was reported, what appeared to be a female body.

“These two bodies have been found not far from where Anneli was found and I fear the worst. They may well be Paula and Annette.

“We've formally linked the murders of Tania and Gemma on Saturday because of significant similarities, and they continue with Anneli, Paula and Annette.

“Clearly they were all prostitutes from Ipswich, they were found naked and in an open rural environment.

“This is so fast-moving, we need to take stock and maximise opportunities to recover forensic evidence from the scene before formally establishing whether they are linked or not.

“We need to catch this person or persons as quickly as possible.”

In a tragic twist of fate Miss Clennell gave an interview to a television crew on Saturday speaking of her fears. She told ITV News the killings had made her “a bit wary about getting into cars” but said she had no option but to do it anyway. Miss Clennell admitted that she had “a couple of nasty experiences” including being beaten up once.

Miss Alderton was yesterday identified as the third victim. She is from Colchester but is known to have worked as a prostitute in Ipswich. She was last seen catching the 5.53pm train from Harwich to Colchester on December 3. Mr Gull said it is likely she had known the other victims.

It is thought she had lain undiscovered since Thursday as a passing motorist told police he saw a body at the spot at about 10.30am that day but dismissed it as an abandoned mannequin.

A post-mortem has shown Miss Alderton was strangled - a cause of death that has been eliminated in the cases of Miss Adams and Miss Nicol. Police are still awaiting forensic results on these first two deaths but it is now thought poisoning or drug overdoses are the most likely methods.

It has not been established whether one or several killers are responsible and Mr McWhirter said police were keeping an open mind. Norwich clinical psychologist Gerrard Bales told the EDP the timescale of the discoveries would suggest whoever is responsible is not working alone.

Police in Suffolk have so far received 450 calls from members of the public with information and 25 from prostitutes and their clients. They have spoken to a number of potential suspects, including known sex offenders, but are not thought to be any closer to making an arrest. A further 150 calls from the public have been received by Norfolk police.