Steve Wright (serial killer)
Steven Gerald James Wright
24 April 1958
Erpingham, Norfolk, England
|Other names||Suffolk Strangler, Ipswich Ripper|
|Conviction(s)||5 counts of murder|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment, with recommendation of a whole life tariff|
Span of crimes
|30 October 2006–9 December 2006|
|19 December 2006|
Steven Gerald James Wright (born 24 April 1958) 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 women who worked as sex workers in Ipswich, Suffolk. The killings took place during the final months of 2006, and Wright was found guilty in February 2008.
Steve Wright was born in the Norfolk village of Erpingham, the second of four children of military policeman Conrad and veterinary nurse Patricia. 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. Wright's mother left in 1964 when he was 6; his father divorced his mother in 1978; both remarried. Wright and his siblings lived with their father, who fathered a son and a daughter with his second wife, Valerie.
He left school in 1974, and soon afterwards joined the Merchant Navy, becoming a chef on ferries sailing from Felixstowe, Suffolk. In 1978, in Milford Haven, at the age of twenty, he married Angela O'Donovan. They had a son, Michael. The couple separated in 1987, and later divorced. Wright became a steward on the QE2, a lorry driver, a barman and, just prior to his arrest, a forklift truck driver. Former sex worker Lindi St Clair said she was attacked by Wright in the 1980s. His second marriage was to 32 year old Diane Cassell at Braintree register office in August 1987. They split in July 1988 while he was a pub landlord in Norwich.
It was during this time that he also managed a public house in South London. This post was lost due to his gambling and heavy drinking. He was convicted in 2001 of theft, having stolen £80 to pay off his debts. This was his only criminal conviction prior to the murders.
It is known that throughout these times Wright built up large debts largely through gambling, and had recently been declared bankrupt. Wright had twice tried to commit suicide, first by carbon monoxide poisoning in his car in 1994; secondly in 2000, by an overdose of pills.
Wright met Pamela Wright (no relation) in 2001 in Felixstowe, and they moved to the house in Ipswich together in 2004. Wright had always admitted that he used sex workers and had done so since he was in the Merchant Navy, and continually throughout his life. In Ipswich, he admitted he went to certain massage and sauna establishments that were actually brothels. During the trial Wright stated he had used professional sex workers on many occasions, including three of the murder victims. Wright advised when his partner began working night shifts and their sex life became almost non-existent, he returned to using professional sex workers who were based on the nearby streets, procuring at least a dozen in the final three months of 2006.
Between 30 October and 10 December 2006, Wright murdered five sex workers in Ipswich. Forensic evidence led to his arrest on 19 December. He was found guilty of all five murders on 21 February 2008. On the following day, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, and the judge recommended that he should never be released.
Prostitutes nicknamed him "Mondeo Man" and "Silver-Backed Gorilla", because of his hair colour and stocky build. Tiny flecks of blood were found on the back seats of Steve Wright's Ford Mondeo, and partially matched the DNA profile of Paula Clennell.
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 nearly in his 50s when the 2006 murders were committed), and that serial killers almost always start killing before their mid 30s. 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.
He is one of a number of high-profile murderers or sex offenders to have been identified as possible suspects in the Suzy Lamplugh case; he had worked with Lamplugh on the QE2 ocean liner 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. However, the Metropolitan Police have stated that this is not a strong line of enquiry. In 2002, the police named John Cannan as the man they believed killed Lamplugh.
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.
Previous East Anglia prostitute murders
Wright has also been linked to the murders of other prostitutes in Ipswich and the nearby city of Norwich. When investigating the five murders committed by Wright in Ipswich in late 2006, renown criminologist David Wilson, who was personally involved in the case, stated that he felt that the murders were far too practiced for someone murdering for the first time. There was a cluster of prostitute murders in Norwich in the years before the 2006 murders, which have gone unsolved to this day. 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. 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.
Wright has been linked to the unsolved murders of:
- Natalie Pearman, Norwich prostitute, November 1992
- Amanda Duncan, Ipswich prostitute, July 1993
- Kellie Pratt, Norwich prostitute, June 2000
- Michelle Bettles, Norwich prostitute, March 2002
In June 2012, Wilson said that the killer of Norwich prostitute Michelle Bettles was likely Wright. Bettles was strangled in March 2002, and her body was found three days later in woodland by a lane on the outskirts of the city. Wright was well known to sex workers in Norwich, often meeting prostitutes there, and he was sometimes notably seen doing so while being dressed as a woman (Wright was known to cross-dress). Before her death, Bettles had told her parents that one unusual client that she had got in a car with one night was a cross-dresser. Bettles was last seen in the red light district of Norwich with plans to meet a client that night. Her body was found right next to a stream, which was very similar to how Wright had disposed of some of his victims in 2006. Bettles had been a regular at the Ferry Boat Inn pub, which was owned and run by Wright in the centre of the red light district of Norwich. Commenting on the similarities between the Bettles case and of the 2006 murders, Wilson stated: "This is screaming out connection, connection, connection... there is no such thing as coincidence when you are dealing with a serial killer". Other academics have linked the case of Bettles to Wright and have pointed out that it would be very unlikely for two serial killers to have been operating in the same area, at the same time, using the same methods and same body disposal methods. 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.
Wright has also been linked by criminal experts to the unsolved murder of Norwich prostitute Natalie Pearman in November 1992. 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. David Wilson stated that the murder appeared to be a "carbon copy" of the murders Wright later committed in 2006. Pearman had also been found two hours after her last sighting strangled to death and partially clothed, and her body was dumped in a layby off a lane in the countryside outside the city. The murder also occurred in areas Wright used to frequent – he was known to frequent the dogging site Pearman's body was found in. The police cross-referenced the DNA found on Pearman's body in 1992 to Wright's, but the results were "inconclusive".
Ipswich prostitute 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, and from where some of his victims were known to have disappeared from in 2006.
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. 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.
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- Real Crime (2008). "Real Crime: The Suffolk Strangler" (TV Documentary). ITV.
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- "Motive still unknown as serial killer faces rest of life in prison", The Guardian, 22 February 2008.
- David Wilson (12 June 2012). "Killers Behind Bars, The Untold Story: The Suffolk Strangler" (TV documentary). Channel 5.
- "'More likely than not' Wright killed others". Irish Examiner. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
- Donal MacIntyre (25 October 2015). "Donal MacIntyre: Unsolved -The Case of Natalie Pearman" (TV Documentary). CBS Reality.
- Moreton, Cole (24 February 2008). "Prostitute murders: The tragedy of the cases still unsolved". The Independent. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
- Kirby, Terry (21 December 2006). "Ipswich suspects may be linked". Independent.ie. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
- "'My son may have killed more' says Dad of Suffolk Strangler". Eastern Daily Press. 6 December 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
- "Police dismiss theory that Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright could be linked to murder of Norwich prostitute". Norwich Evening News. 20 December 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
- Wilkin, Chris (7 February 2008). "Ipswich murders: Accused used prostitutes for 25 years". Daily Gazette. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
- "Timeline: the Suffolk murders". The Guardian. 16 January 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
- "Mother's disappearance remains a mystery 27 years on". Ipswich Star. 19 July 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
- "Amanda Duncan". Unsolved Murders. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
- "Police 'suspect Steve Wright of more murders'". The Telegraph. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
- Fresco, Adam (3 March 2008). "Steve Wright faces questioning over other crimes". The Times. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
- Ipswich serial killer Steve Wright, ITV Local