Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Accused serial killer makes first court appearance

AFP , IPSWICH, ENGLAND

A 48-year-old man appeared in court yesterday charged with killing five prostitutes in Ipswich,England, in a case which has gripped the country for weeks.

Former forklift truck driver Steven Wright is charged with the murders of Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29, whose bodies were found over a 10-day period.

His appearance will be the first step in a court process likely to last for months and attract intense media interest worldwide.

Another suspect, also arrested earlier this week on suspicion of all five murders, was released on police bail on Thursday at the same time as the charges against Wright were announced.

Before a courtroom packed with reporters, Wright spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth before the charges were read aloud to him during the brief hearing at Ipswich magistrates' court.

Smartly dressed in a dark blue suit and white shirt, he stared blankly at the magistrates, witnesses inside the court said.

Wright was remanded in custody ahead of another court appearance at the higher Ipswich Crown Court on Jan. 2.

Speaking before his appearance in court, Wright's solicitor Paul Osler said his client was doing well.

"Of course anybody accused of these sorts of offenses is going to experience trauma, but he is bearing up well," he said, adding: "I would remind everybody about the presumption of innocence."

Britain has strict laws limiting what can be reported in the early stages of court cases designed to prevent prejudice among future jurors trying the case.

The charges against Wright were announced at a hastily arranged press conference late Thursday, at which police also confirmed the release on bail of a first suspect, whom the media has identified as 37-year-old Tom Stephens, a supermarket worker, who was arrested on Monday.

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