Suffolk Strangler: Father Of One Quizzed After Police Swoop On Home In Red-light Area

The girlfriend of the latest Suffolk Strangler suspect wept as she declared: “He’s innocent.” Former QE2 chef Steve Wright, 48, was arrested in a dawn raid on his home in Ipswich’s red light district, where he is said to have regularly taken prostitutes.

{mosimage}The fork-lift truck driver, a twice-divorced father of one, was held less than 24 hours after the first suspect, Tom Stephens, 37, was also arrested over the murders of five prostitutes.

Wright was led from his flat wearing his dressing gown. His blue Ford Mondeo was taken away for inspection by police as a team of forensic officers combed his flat for possible clues.

Police described the arrest as “significant”.

Wright’s partner of five years, Pamela Goodman, emerged from a police station in tears after being briefly allowed to see him.

“Steve is innocent and I am confident that the police now know that none of this is true,” she told a close friend. “I can provide alibis for him when he is supposed to have killed those women.”

The divorcee, 48, a mother of one who works in a call centre and uses the surname Wright, moved with the suspect to London Road in Ipswich three months ago.

Their maisonette at the back of a terrace house is in the heart of the red light district and is, coincidentally, a few doors from the former home of victim Paula Clennell.

John Norris, who is grandfather to Paula’s three daughters, said: “This man’s home is on the opposite side of the road and five doors along from the house Paula used.”

Prostitutes working in the area said Wright was a regular client who would take them back to the flat while his partner was working.

He was being questioned by police investigating the murders of Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, Paula Clennell, 24, Annette Nicholls, 29, and Anneli Alderton, 24.

Tom Stephens also remained in custody after police were granted a further 36 hours to continue questioning him.

Police sources said there was not believed to be any link between the men and they were being treated as completely separate suspects.

Detectives are desperate to find the clothes which were stripped from the prostitutes’ bodies by their killer. So far none of the clothing which has been found dumped around Ipswich has been positively identified as belonging to the victims.

Wright drives a fork lift truck at the docks in Felixstowe, and is also understood to have driven a truck in the past.

The naked bodies of three of the strangler’s victims were dumped close to the A14 which runs between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

Wright, the son of a retired RAF policeman, is a keen golfer at the Hintlesham Hall hotel near Ipswich and is always smartly dressed when he was not working, neighbours said.

He and Miss Goodman told friends they moved to London Road from a nearby street because they wanted a bigger garden.

His first wife Angela O’Donovan, who he married in 1978, said: “This has come as a complete bolt out of the blue. I am shaking just thinking about it. It has knocked my family for six. I had one son by him but have not seen Steve for a number of years.”

Wright was described by family friend Sheila Davis as: “A strange man who can be extremely shy. He is well dressed and clean cut.

Together with her partner, Eddie Roberts, Mrs Davis has been on holiday with Wright and Miss Goodman to Ireland.

She added: “They are a nice couple. He is pretty quiet. They were really pleased with their new flat because they wanted a place with a garden. They were planning to put ornaments in it.

“But the last time I saw her she was pretty fed up with things. He didn”t like her going out for a drink on her own.”

Builder David Welton, who lives in the other flat in the house where Wright lives, said: “There are always noises from their flat, thumping about, and we could hear running water from our bedroom.

“He was always cleaning that Mondeo both inside and out.”

Wright worked on the QE2 between 1986 and 1988 with his second wife Diane, who worked in a shop on the luxury liner.

Friends said the couple married after a whirlwind romance but the relationship fell apart following a series of furious rows.

Wright used to run a pub in Norwich, the Ferry Boat Inn, which by chance was a regular haunt of two prostitutes – Natalie Pearman, 16, and Michelle Bettles, 22 – whose murders remain unsolved.

Police have said they are not linking those unsolved murders with the Suffolk Strangler killings.

Tom Stephens, 37, the first man arrested over the Suffolk Strangler murders, was forced to resign from his part-time job with the police because of his obsession with vice girls, it has been claimed.

Former prostitute Cilla May Leggett, 32, said she had a relationship with him when he was married and working as a special constable between 1992 and 1997.

She said: “His police bosses told him he couldn’t carry on seeing me because I had a criminal record.”

A police source said: “Stephens became a figure of fun because he was seeing this woman. It might not have been given as the official reason that he left the force – but that was what triggered it.”