Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Camped out working in Ipswich this week, lots of familiar place names from hotels and roadsigns have hit the headlines as the tragic murders of local prostitutes across the region dominate the news.

Nacton - Copdock (near the Toys'R'Us roundabout at Tesco) - Hintlesham (home to Hintlesham Hall).

Driving back from work tonight we past the end of a closed off road at Levington, with blue lights on the parked police cars flashing, and the Salvation Army emergency response van catering to cold and hungry police who were at the scene of the latest two body finds.

The city of Ipswich in the county of Suffolk isn't the normally the most newsworthy. Ipswich Town Football Club has runs of good and bad luck; Sir Alf Ramsey was a successful England Manager, and has a road named after him - Sir Alf Ramsey Way - right in the middle of Ipswich red light zone.

It sounds like a cliché when each news bulletin suggests that Ipswich is dominated by the news. But truly, the locals are constantly talking about the drama that is unfolding on their normally quiet doorstep. And the tragedy is rightfully overcoming their disapproval of the victims' occupation.

Now getting a hotel room booked in Ipswich was already proving difficult when our teams organised their travel plans last week. We're spread out across six hotels.

Some of our crowd are staying out at Hintlesham Hall. An up-market, out of town hotel that won't let you in to eat dinner unless you're wearing a jacket and tie. (Spare jackets and ties will be provided if you don't have any!)

Unimpressed with this nonsense - I'm sure some will enjoy getting dressed up, but at the end of a long day, it feels like a step too far - we negotiated to have dinner on our knees in "the Library" - no dressing up, but out of sight of most dressy guests.

A colleague had taken ill, and was unable to fly across from the US. We discovered that he hadn't cancelled his booking. Normally, a hotel would quote the 24 hour cancellation policy and charge for the first night. Not so tonight in Ipswich. There's a waiting list of TV crews all looking for rooms.

Our cancelled room will be hosting a couple of ITN journalists - they're all having to double up due to the shortage of rooms, and also the price they're being charged. Extra beds are being hastily built by weary porters.

Also slumming it in the Library for dinner was a Norwegian TV crew! As I left, dinner was being extended with crews arriving at 11.30pm after finishing their live coverage for the late news bulletins - bet they quickly run out of spare jackets!

Let's hope and pray that the body count gets no higher, and that the killer is caught soon. Being trapped in circumstances that make prostitution a viable alternative is serious enough without the added pressure and uncertainty of being a target for a murderer.

One final observation - I called in Tesco just after midnight to pick up some food to keep us going during the long hours we predict we'll be working tomorrow. Ahead of me at the checkout was a man with 300 packets of raspberry jelly - costing a mere £25 or so. The cash till queried "Are you sure?" when the checkout lady punched in 300! I only wish I'd asked what he was going to do with it all.


David Todd said...

It'd be interesting to hear what the local goss is, about the murders.Is there a big drug problem there?

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

To be honest, the locals I've spoken to are just shocked and bemused about what's going on.

There've been no comments about drugs. No speculation about any reasons - other than the main media pundits.

If it happened in Belfast, I think there would be more mutterings and discussions about what might be behind it. But then NI thugs who carry out acts of violence often have links to organisations - whether or not the organisations condone their action - so there's a slicker route for snippets of (mis)information onto the local grapevine.

Howard said...

I did hear an interesting debate today regarding the national media handling of this event. I know it's tragic and very serious but judging by the media frenzy you would think the world was coming to an end - or, more truthfully - it's a quiet week media wise.

Some of the issued raised were:-
1. Are the local police able to deal with the issue (there is almost a wish that they wont be)
2. The papers nickname of the 'Ipswich Ripper' which insinuates the type and motive of the murderer
3. The constant refferal to the victims as 'Prostitutes' rather than as people.

There has been very little debate as you say as to the drugs issue. This is a shame as it was to pay for a drug addiction that forced at least one of these women to sell her body and ultimatley lose her life. Somebody did say to me today they had little sympathy because she should have 'gone out to work' which is probably the most stupid comment I have ever heard and just shows how ignorant of the issues some people are.

Anyway, on a much lighter note - what would you do with 300 packets of jelly? Surely that should make the news at some point!

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

It seems that once one news anchor arrived in Ipswich, the rest felt they had to follow. Yet there is no new news to add to the existing rolling cycle.

Last night and this morning, News 24 and Sky News had turned into an education service - exploring the pressures that force women into prostitution, and looking at the help available.

All very public spirited of them to tell their audience. Perhaps even more helpful if they'd investigate the issues during the year - as opposed to when they've run out of new deaths and developments to report.

So they are now majoring on the need to fund drug habits, as well as a touching interview on BBC Look East (the local station) with a friend of one (unconfirmed) victim, explaining that she uses the same child care facility, and is sad at the loss of her friend, who she primarily knew as another mother.

The release of the Diana report should give the media a much-needed excuse to reverse out of East Anglia and retreat back to their cheaper London-based operations. (The local hoteliers will be disappointed: "although it's a terrible tragedy" one explained last night "it has brought us a lot of business. We're full again tonight, everyone is".)

That and the flooding of the village of Milnathort in Perth and Kinross. Mind you it's a long way to drive a satellite truck up to do some two-ways!

And if anyone in the media is reading - Felixstowe is only down the road from Ipswich, it's on the right side of the river for the police HQ at Martlesham, and you'll find loads of free & cheaper rooms!

Bock the Robber said...

It's not surprising that the news media would talk about prostitutes being murdered. If the killer murdered exclusively nurses or showjumpers or even journalists, they'd focus on that aspect of the case.

What's more worrying is that somebody could stand in a queue behind a man buying 300 packets of raspberry jelly and not call the cops.

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

I'm still wondering what the jelly was for? Maybe he's doing a secret santa for a school cook. This could be a year's supply of jelly desserts and trifle?