In Ipswich, situated about 70 miles east of London, two sex workers went missing in as many weeks in November 2006. Was it a coincidence, or was there a connection between the disappearances of 19-year-old Tania Nicol and 25-year-old Gemma Adams?
Police were eager to find out. So were residents of the country town, including Pam Wright, 60. She and her partner Steve Wright (no relation), 47, lived along London Road, near the area’s red light district.
She worried about the young women whose lifestyles put them in peril, according to “Living With A Serial Killer,” a new special on Oxygen — but Pam would eventually learn danger was lurking even closer in her home.
On December 2, investigators made the gruesome discovery of the naked body of a woman in a waterway on the outskirts of town. The victim was identified as Adams, and police were certain that her death was no accident.
Officials reviewed Close Circuit Television footage covering areas where Ipswich prostitutes worked. They caught an image of Nicol getting into a car, but the grainy video yielded little useful information.
Then, on December 8, Nicol’s body turned up in the water a mile and a half from where Adams had been found.
“These things don't happen in a vacuum,” former homicide detective Fil Waters told producers. “It’s no coincidence.” The search intensified for a double murderer.
As Pam grappled with her relationship with Steve seriously deteriorating, she still found room to express compassion for the murdered women. Steve, meanwhile, barely took note of the local tragedies, according to Pam’s son, Jamie Goodman.
On December 10, the body of another sex worker, Anneli Alderton, 24, was found in a wooded area. She’d been strangled. Like the other two victims, she was naked. The investigation escalated. Ipswich became the center of a media frenzy.
“No stone was left unturned in terms of bringing the resources to bear on this,” Commander David Johnston, Head of Homicide for Scotland Yard, told “Living With A Serial Killer.”
As the police presence amped up, so did the casualties. On December 12, the naked bodies of sex workers Annette Nicholls, 29, and Paula Clennell, 24, were found in close proximity along a road. Investigators processed the victims for forensic evidence and DNA.
By this time, police had their eye on Steve Wright, who had a long history of using prostitutes — a fact Pam knew nothing about. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
She got a stark reality check, however, on December 19. After finishing work on the night shift, she called Steve that morning as she always did to awaken him. When he didn’t answer she was puzzled. Police, who’d came to her workplace, then notified Pam that Steve had been arrested and that she couldn’t return home.
At this time, she didn’t know the accusations against Steve.
“I stood there speechless,” she said. “It didn’t enter my mind about these girls.”
It wasn't until Pam agreed to be interviewed she learned that Steve was an accused killer. She was completely blindsided.
When he was interrogated by police, Steve, who drove a forklift and was known for his controlling streak, was “zombie-esque,” said Waters. He revealed nothing. He simply said, “No comment.”
Amid his silence, police methodically worked the case. They returned to the closed circuit TV footage and were able to confirm that the car Nicol got into matched Steve Wright’s vehicle.
They also found a fluorescent jacket that belonged to Steve that was covered with genetic material that matched the victims’ DNA. He was charged with five murders.
Pam, meanwhile, was shocked at the thought of Steve even associated with prostitutes. She couldn’t wrap her head around the notion that he killed them. Ten days later, he called Pam from lockup and denied culpability and she believed him.
For the next year he was behind bars while she endured her own sort of prison because of being associated with an alleged killer known as “the Suffolk Strangler.”
“I couldn’t go out to post a letter,” she said. “I was terrified. I was constantly looking over my shoulder. That was the start of my lockdown, my remand ... I just didn't want to wake up. I drank ridiculously. I was on antidepressants, anything to go to sleep.”
For over a year she stayed in contact with Steve, whose trial began on January 16, 2008. But on February 2, the jury deliberated for eight hours and returned with a guilty verdict on all five counts of murder. Evidence found on Nicol’s body, despite the fact that she’d been submerged for days, helped secure the verdict and Steve Wright’s life sentence.
Some people didn’t believe that Pam could be oblivious to Steve’s actions. She called the accusations “unkind” and “hurtful." "I had no idea what he was doing,” she said.
More than 14 years after the murders, Pam and her son have left Ipswich and live in Devon, hundreds of miles away. But distance doesn’t erase the past.
“It’s with you morning and night, every day of your life. And I can never see that going away,” she said, adding that she still believes Steve is not guilty. “This is my life sentence.”
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