Steve Wright (serial killer)

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Steven Wright
Steven Gerald James Wright

(1958-04-24) 24 April 1958 (age 64)
Erpingham, Norfolk, England
Other namesSuffolk Strangler, Ipswich Ripper
Conviction(s)5 counts of murder
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment (whole life order)
Span of crimes
30 October 2006–9 December 2006
Date apprehended
19 December 2006
Imprisoned atHM Prison Long Lartin

Steven Gerald James Wright (born 24 April 1958)[1] is an English serial killer, also known as the Suffolk Strangler and the Ipswich Ripper. He is serving life imprisonment for the murder of five prostitutes who worked in Ipswich, Suffolk. The killings took place during the final months of 2006, and Wright was found guilty in February 2008.

Early life[edit]

Steve Wright was born in the Norfolk village of Erpingham,[1] the second of four children of military policeman Conrad and veterinary nurse[2] Patricia,[3] on 24 April 1958. He has an older brother and two younger sisters. While Wright's father was on military service, the family had lived in both Malta and Singapore.[2][4][failed verification] Wright's mother left the family in 1964 when he was aged 6;[3] his father divorced his mother in 1978;[1] both remarried. Wright and his siblings lived with their father, who fathered a son and a daughter with his second wife, Valerie.[2]

Wright left school at the age of 16 in 1974, and soon afterwards joined the Merchant Navy, becoming a chef on ferries sailing from Felixstowe, Suffolk. In 1978, at age 20, he married Angela O'Donovan in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales. They had a son, Michael. The couple separated in 1987, and later divorced.[5] Wright became a steward on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2, a lorry driver, a barman and, just prior to his arrest, a forklift truck driver. Former prostitute Lindi St Clair said that Wright attacked her in the 1980s.[6] His second marriage was to 32 year old Diane Cassell at Braintree, Essex, register office in August 1987.[2] They divorced in July 1988 while he was a pub landlord in Norwich.[2]

It was during this time that Wright also managed a pub in South London.[2] He lost this post due to his gambling and heavy drinking. Wright was convicted in 2001 of theft, having stolen £80 to pay off his debts.[2] This was his only criminal conviction prior to the murders.[7] Wright accrued large gambling debts,[4][failed verification] and was declared bankrupt in the late 1990s.[2] He had twice tried to commit suicide, first by carbon monoxide poisoning in his car in 1994; secondly in 2000, by an overdose of pills.[2]

Suffolk murders[edit]

Wright met Pamela Wright (no relation) in 2001 in Felixstowe, and they moved to a house in Ipswich together in 2004.[2] Wright had always admitted that he patronized prostitutes, and had done so since he was in the Merchant Navy,[4][failed verification] and continually throughout his life.[2] In Ipswich, he admitted he went to certain massage and sauna establishments that were actually brothels.[2] During his trial, Wright stated he had patronized professional prostitutes on many occasions, including three of the murder victims. Wright began having sex with prostitutes again when his partner began working night shifts and their sex life became almost non-existent; he paid at least a dozen women for sex in the final three months of 2006.[4][failed verification] Local prostitutes nicknamed him "Mondeo Man" and "Silver-Backed Gorilla", because of his hair colour and stocky build.[citation needed]

Between 30 October and 10 December 2006, Wright murdered five prostitutes in Ipswich. Forensic evidence led to his arrest on 19 December; tiny flecks of blood were found on the back seats of Wright's Ford Mondeo, and partially matched the DNA profile of murder victim Paula Clennell.[8]

Wright was found guilty of all five murders on 21 February 2008. At Ipswich Crown Court the following day, Mr Justice Gross sentenced Wright to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he should never be released.[9] On 19 March 2008, Wright appealed his convictions,[10] but on 2 February 2009, it was announced that Wright had decided to drop his appeal.[11]

Possible links to other crimes[edit]

Wright is still being investigated in connection with other unsolved murders and disappearances. Experts have highlighted how it is unlikely for any serial killer to start killing at such a late stage (Wright was 48 years old when the 2006 murders were committed), and that serial killers almost always start killing before their mid 30s.[12] This indicates that Wright likely killed before in his life, and psychologists told police after the murders that it was 'highly likely' that he had done so.[12][13]

Wright is one of a number of high-profile murderers or sex offenders to have been identified as possible suspects in the Suzy Lamplugh murder case; he had worked with Lamplugh on Queen Elizabeth 2 during the early 1980s. Lamplugh went missing in London in July 1986, and was legally declared dead in 1994, but her body has never been found.[14] However, the Metropolitan Police have stated that this is not a strong line of enquiry.[15] In 2002, the police named John Cannan as the man they believed killed Lamplugh.[16]

Cleveland Police have not ruled out a link between Wright and the murder of Vicky Glass, a heroin addict who vanished from Middlesbrough in September 2000, and whose naked body was later found in a brook on the North York Moors.[17]

In 2019, Wright was linked by an ex-police officer to the murder of Jeanette Kempton in 1989.[18] Kempton had vanished from Brixton, near where Wright lived at the time, and was later found dead many miles away in a rural location in Suffolk.[18]

In July 2021 Wright was arrested, at HM Prison Long Lartin, on suspicion of murdering Victoria Hall, a 17-year-old who was murdered on her way home from a Suffolk nightclub in 1999. Her body was found in a ditch five days after she was last seen alive in Felixstowe. Suffolk police reopened their investigation in 2019 after receiving fresh witness information. They announced that Wright had been “released under investigation, pending further inquiries”.[19][20] Only two months after this police announced a re-investigation by a historical crimes unit into Vicky Glass's murder in order to pursue "new lines of enquiry".[21]

Previous East Anglia prostitute murders[edit]

Wright has also been linked to the murders of other sex workers in Ipswich and nearby Norwich. When investigating the five murders committed by Wright in Ipswich in late 2006, criminologist David Wilson, who was personally involved in the case, stated that he felt that the murders were far too practised for someone murdering for the first time.[22] There was a cluster of sex worker murders in Norwich in the years before the 2006 murders, which have gone unsolved to this day.[22] Wright used to live and work in the city, and he frequently returned to the city in the years after he left, usually travelling from Ipswich to Norwich once a month.[22][23] He ran a pub in the middle of the red light district of Norwich, similar to how he lived in the centre of the red light district of Ipswich at the time of the 2006 murders.[22]

Wright has been linked to the unsolved murders of:

  • Natalie Pearman, Norwich, November 1992[24] (a link was disproven with DNA by 2017)[25]
  • Amanda Duncan, Ipswich, July 1993[26][12]
  • Kellie Pratt, Norwich, June 2000[27][12]
  • Michelle Bettles, Norwich, March 2002[22] (a link was disproven with DNA by 2022)[28]

In June 2012, Wilson said that the killer of Norwich sex worker Michelle Bettles was likely Wright.[22] The police responded to the suggested links between Bettles's case and Wright by saying that they had found no evidence linking Wright to the crime.[29] It was revealed in 2019 that police had already made an arrest in April 2003 of a man whose DNA matched samples from Bettles' body, and this man admitted having picked her up for sex on 26 March 2002, two days before she was last seen.[30] The man claimed that he was at home with a migraine on the night she was killed, but phone records show him making a large amounts of calls that evening, although police failed to locate where the calls were made from.[30] On 28 March 2022, police announced they had recovered further DNA profiles in Bettles' murder case, indicating Wright can be ruled out of the murder with forensic evidence.[28]

Wright had previously also been linked by criminal experts to the unsolved murder of Norwich sex worker Natalie Pearman in November 1992.[24] Pearman was last seen at night soliciting clients outside the Ferry Boat Inn pub – the pub that was owned and run by Wright and that was located in the heart of the city's red light district.[24] The police cross-referenced the DNA found on Pearman's body in 1992 to Wright's, but the results were "inconclusive".[24] However, in 2017, police announced that they had a full DNA profile of the attacker and that solving the case was simply a matter of matching the DNA to an individual, meaning that Steve Wright could be ruled out of the murder.[31]

Ipswich sex worker Amanda Duncan vanished after talking to a man in a car on Portman Road in the town in 1993, a road that Wright was known to acquire his prostitutes from,[32] and from where some of his victims were known to have disappeared from in 2006.[33][34][35]

After Wright's murders in 2006, the police re-opened and re-examined these four cold cases to establish whether Wright could be responsible, and questioned Wright about them.[36][37] Family members of the victims stated they believed he could be linked and called for the police to investigate this further and charge him for them.[36][13][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Sandra Laville and Esther Addley (20 December 2006). "Girlfriend insists new suspect is innocent as forensic teams search their home". Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McVeigh, Karen (21 February 2008). "My anger is buried deep inside". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 February 2008.
  3. ^ a b Profile of a serial killer (20 June 2008). "BBC profile". Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d "Ipswich Killings Trials". East Anglian Daily Times. 25 February 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  5. ^ O'Neil, Sean (22 February 2008). "He was rude and aggressive, but no-one's idea of a killer". The Times.
  6. ^ "Wright 'attacked former prostitute'". BBC. 27 February 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  7. ^ Allen, Nick (21 February 2008). "Steve Wright: A real Jekyll and Hyde". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  8. ^ "Flecks of blood found in Wright's car". 31 January 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  9. ^ Naughton, Philippe (22 February 2008). "Suffolk strangler Steve Wright jailed for 'whole life term'". The Times. London.
  10. ^ "Families' Anger at Wright Appeal Bid". Ipswich Star. 19 March 2008. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Serial killer drops appeal case". BBC News. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  12. ^ a b c d e Real Crime (2008). "Real Crime: The Suffolk Strangler" (TV Documentary). ITV. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021.
  13. ^ a b Rayner, Gordon; Allen, Nick (22 February 2008). "Police confirm killer is suspect in more deaths". The Independent. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  14. ^ Batty, Dave (22 February 2008). "Police investigate 'link' between Wright and Suzy Lamplugh". The Guardian. London, England. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  15. ^ "Wright 'not linked to Suzy death'". BBC News. 14 May 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2008.
  16. ^ Lanville, Sandra (6 November 2002). "Police name man who 'killed Suzy Lamplugh'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  17. ^ Addley, Esther; McVeigh, Karen (22 February 2008). "Motive still unknown as serial killer faces rest of life in prison". The Guardian.
  18. ^ a b Bristow, Tom (8 March 2019). "Ex-police officer links Jeanette Kempton cold case to Steve Wright". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  19. ^ Evans, Martin (29 July 2021). "Exclusive: Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright arrested over unsolved murder of 17-year-old Victoria Hall". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  20. ^ "Suffolk Strangler 'arrested over unsolved murder'". 30 July 2021.
  21. ^ "Police to re-examine unsolved UK murder case after 21 years". The Guardian. 24 September 2021. Retrieved 24 September 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ a b c d e f Wilson, David (12 June 2012). "Killers Behind Bars, The Untold Story: The Suffolk Strangler" (TV documentary). Channel 5.
  23. ^ "'More likely than not' Wright killed others". Irish Examiner. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  24. ^ a b c d MacIntyre, Donal (25 October 2015). "Donal MacIntyre: Unsolved -The Case of Natalie Pearman" (TV Documentary). CBS Reality. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021.[dead link]
  25. ^ In 2017, police announced that they had a full DNA profile of the murderer and solving the case was simply a case of matching it to an individual, meaning Steve Wright could be ruled out of the attack.
  26. ^ Moreton, Cole (24 February 2008). "Prostitute murders: The tragedy of the cases still unsolved". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  27. ^ Kirby, Terry (21 December 2006). "Ipswich suspects may be linked". Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  28. ^ a b "Michelle Bettles: DNA profiles found in Norwich murder case". BBC News. 28 March 2022. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  29. ^ Knights, Emma (20 December 2014). "Police dismiss theory that Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright could be linked to murder of Norwich prostitute". Norwich Evening News. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  30. ^ a b Bristow, Tom (9 April 2019). "Michelle Bettles' parents: 'Dig deeper into our girl's murder'". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  31. ^ "Natalie Pearman case: DNA could solve 1992 murder". BBC News. 20 November 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  32. ^ Wilkin, Chris (7 February 2008). "Ipswich murders: Accused used prostitutes for 25 years". Daily Gazette. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  33. ^ "Timeline: the Suffolk murders". The Guardian. 16 January 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  34. ^ "Mother's disappearance remains a mystery 27 years on". Ipswich Star. 19 July 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  35. ^ Murders, Unsolved (3 July 1993). "Amanda Duncan". 1891 (1993). Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  36. ^ a b "Police 'suspect Steve Wright of more murders'". The Daily Telegraph. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  37. ^ Fresco, Adam (3 March 2008). "Steve Wright faces questioning over other crimes". The Times. Retrieved 31 May 2021.

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