IPSWICH, England – Authorities charged a 48-year-old man Thursday with the murder of five prostitutes whose bodies were recovered this month — crimes that terrified this English town and prompted some women to change their routines as a precaution.
"Stephen Wright from Ipswich has been charged with the murder of all five women," Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull said at a news conference. Wright was to appear in court Friday.
The reports identified Stephens as a part-time taxi driver, supermarket worker and former volunteer police officer. He was quoted in an interview with the Sunday Mirror newspaper as saying he knew all the victims, and regarded himself as their protector.
"As the case has developed we have been carefully examining and assessing the evidence in order to come to a charging decision at the earliest possible opportunity," Crimp said.
Police arrested Wright Tuesday at his home near where several of the women were last seen. Police later seized a dark blue Ford Mondeo from the property.
The British Broadcasting Corp. and other media reported earlier that Wright worked as a forklift driver and had lived in the area since September.
All five victims had been working as prostitutes and their naked bodies were found in rural areas around Ipswich over a period of 10 days beginning Dec. 2.
Three of the bodies were found near the main road and the rail line between Ipswich and Trimley; the two others were discovered near the same road in areas south and southwest of Ipswich.
Thursday's developments were likely to bring some relief before the Christmas holidays to Ipswich residents, some of whom said their daily routines had been clouded by fear since the bodies were discovered.
Town authorities organized shuttle services to get women home from the local council offices, and the council's monthly newsletter was publishing a safety message: "Stick Together" — advising all women in the city to stay off the streets alone. Two of the town's largest employers have equipped their female employees with panic alarms.
The suspected serial killer reminded Britons of the so-called Yorkshire Ripper who killed 13 women over five years in the 1970s. That killing spree prompted comparisons to Jack the Ripper, the notorious Victorian serial killer who murdered at least five East London prostitutes in 1888.
News of the arrest came a day after an inquest into the deaths of Nicol, Alderton, Clennell, and Nicholls. An inquest into the death of the fifth victim, Adams, 25, was held last week.
A senior pathologist determined Clennell, 24, died of "compression" to her neck — police refused to elaborate — and Alderton, 24, was strangled. Autopsies reached no conclusions of the cause of death of Nicol, 19, and Nicholls, 29.