UK ‘strangler’ still at large

The positive comments came as they sought to allay panic in the English town of Ipswich, which is gripped by fears of a new strike by the killer dubbed the “Suffolk Strangler”.

“We are making good progress,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull. “We’re looking at a number of interesting people (and) pursuing a number of interesting lines of inquiry.”

But he admitted: “We don’t have any suspects at this stage.”

The Ipswich killings have evoked one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers, east London’s Jack the Ripper, who murdered five prostitutes in 1888, as well as the “Yorkshire Ripper,” who murdered 13 women from 1975 to 1980.

In one of the biggest murder investigations ever in Britain, more than 300 officers from nine different police forces around the country have been drafted in to help in the massive manhunt.

On Friday Chief Supt Gull confirmed the identity of the fifth victim as Annette Nicholls, 29, whose body was found on Tuesday along with that of 24-year-old Paula Clennell.

The three other victims have already been identified as 25-year-old Gemma Adams, 19-year-old Tania Nicol and 24-year-old Anneli Alderton. The cause of death has only been established in two of the cases – Ms Clennell died of “compression to the neck,” while Ms Alderton was strangled.

Asked about locals’ concerns that detectives still have no suspects, Chief Supt Gull underlined that the threat should be seen in perspective.

“My message is, don’t panic. We know that those responsible have targeted working girls. There’s no suggestion that other women … are at risk,” he told reporters.

Investigators in the normally tranquil town, about 130 kilometres northeast of London, are ploughing through more than 7,000 calls from the public and trying to trace the victims’ last movements.

In new leads, police said they were investigating whether the victims had been drugged before being killed, reporting that none of the bodies showed signs of a struggle.

Officials meanwhile confirmed to news agency AFP that police and local drug workers were paying prostitutes in Ipswich to stay off the streets. The money was being provided by an unidentified charity.

Police also reported progress in searching for a man driving a blue BMW, after a local sex worker was quoted by several news outlets as saying she saw Ms Alderton climb into the car last week.

Detectives had interviewed a man fitting that description but were now searching for the prostitutes who had given the information “so that this man can be eliminated from our inquiries”, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

Another possible lead came after it also emerged that Ms Clennell had stolen £1,000 pounds ($A1,673) from a client of hers after they fell out, according to the Daily Mirror tabloid.

Ms Clennell’s boyfriend, Paul Turner, suggested that the client, whose name he did not know, might be the killer.

“I think I know who killed her,” he said, adding: “Maybe this guy had enough of being ripped off and lashed out… It could be that he got the killing bug or that he wanted to get revenge on every one of them who’d stolen from him.”

Police chief Gull declined to elaborate on the “interesting” people police were checking on. But sources said the number of individuals involved was fewer than 50, including some men who regularly used the prostitutes’ services.

“We have got a range of individuals who have been suggested to us. Some are local and some are not. Some are not punters,” he said. “We are determined to find the person or persons responsible.”

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