your connection to The Boston Globe

A killer might have drugged prostitutes

Fifth victim is ID'd in Britain

Residents attended a service yesterday for victims of a suspected serial killer in the port town of Ipswich, England. (Andrew Parsons/Pool)

LONDON -- Their bodies showed no signs of a struggle, raising questions of whether a suspected serial killer might have drugged the five young women -- all addicts and prostitutes -- before killing them and dumping their remains on the outskirts of an English port town.

"The fact that they were drug users will make the work more complicated" for forensic specialists, said Sandra Graffham, a Suffolk police spokeswoman.

The fifth victim was identified yesterday as Annette Nicholls, 29, but a coroner was unable to say what caused her death.

One woman died from asphyxiation, and one died from what a coroner called "compression to the neck." The causes of death for two others are still unclear because their bodies were found in water.

Forensic psychologists have suggested that the killer might have lured and then anesthetized the women with drugs.

The victims were all found naked, but none of the bodies showed signs of significant trauma or sexual assault. It will take days to complete toxicology reports that could show whether the women had been drugged or the level of previous drug use, police said.

Investigators from Britain's equivalent of the FBI -- the National Center for Policing Excellence -- were in Ipswich, a town about 70 miles northeast of London that used to be a bustling port in the 19th century. About 300 specialists have also been sent .

Kevin Dominic Browne, who specializes in forensic psychology and whose center in Birmingham has studied serial killers, said the suspect might have drugged his victims to ensure he had power over them.

Often these types of killers have been abused or suffered trauma associated with sexual intimacy, Browne said.

Serial killers usually enjoy the physical sensation of killing, preferring strangulation or bludgeoning to guns and other weapons, specialists said.

"It may be this person gets a real charge out of playing God but doesn't necessarily relish hearing the screams of his victims," said James Alan Fox, a psychology professor at Northeastern University in Boston and author of several books on serial killers. "Drugging them would have also made it easier on him -- psychologically -- to abduct them, kill them, and dispose of their bodies."

"Some serial killers feel it is their self-appointed task to rid the streets of prostitutes, and in a case like this, you wouldn't necessarily see any sexual molestation," Fox added. "It could also explain why he might have drugged them."

All five victims were found over a 10-day span just miles apart in and around Ipswich.

Gemma Adams, 25, was the first woman to be found, in a stream Dec. 2.

She grew up in the Ipswich area and became addicted to heroin after leaving a job at an insurance company. Her boyfriend reported her missing Nov. 15.

The body of Anneli Alderton, 24, was spotted in the woods Dec. 10 after initially being mistaken for a discarded mannequin. Police said it appeared she had been strangled.

The body of Tania Nicol, 19, was found in a pond. Nicol was reported missing Nov. 1.

The body of Paula Clennell, 24 was identified by police Thursday. Authorities said she died of "compression to the neck."

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives