Charges filed in 5 British slayings

Times Staff Writer

Stephen Wright, a 48-year-old truck driver, was charged Thursday with murdering five prostitutes whose bodies were found this month around his hometown of Ipswich in eastern England.

Forensic teams and detectives continued to search a huge area where the bodies of Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29, were found over a 10-day period ending Dec. 12.

All were naked except for some jewelry, and the similarities in the crimes had touched off fears of a continuing series of slayings.

Authorities were also searching Wright's home and that of another suspect, whom British media have identified as Tom Stephens, 37. That suspect was released on bail "pending further inquiries," said police, who have not named him.

Stephens has given interviews to British media acknowledging that he knew all five victims and was a possible suspect.

"I know I am innocent. But I don't have alibis for some of the time," Stephens said.

Wright will appear in the Ipswich magistrates court today.

All five women were drug users who financed their habit through prostitution. Inquests revealed the cause of death for two: Alderton died by asphyxiation and Clennell died as a result of "compression to neck."

Several newspapers reported that Wright was a truck driver who had worked as a ship's steward on the Queen Elizabeth 2 liner for 12 years in the 1980s and '90s. He was twice married and divorced, had three children and now lives with a partner, Pamela Wright.

Some local prostitutes interviewed by the Times of London told reporters that they had known him as a client.

The case has been likened to that of Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire ripper, who killed 13 women from October 1975 to November 1980.

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