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(photo credit: AP)
A 48-year-old man charged with the murder of five prostitutes whose naked bodies were recovered near this English town appeared in court for the first time Friday.
Magistrates at Ipswich Magistrates Court ordered Stephen Wright remanded in custody.
Police charged Wright late Thursday with the five murders. He lives in the city's red-light district and was taken into custody in Ipswich Tuesday.
"Stephen Wright from Ipswich has been charged with the murder of all five women," Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull said at a news conference.
A police van accompanied by two police cars arrived at Ipswich Magistrate Court at 9:30 a.m. and appeared to drop him off inside the building, which was heavily guarded by police and crash barriers to keep people off the roads outside.
Before the hearing, Wright's lawyer Paul Osler said outside the court: "He is bearing up well. Of course anybody accused of these sorts of offenses is going to experience trauma. ... I would remind everybody about the presumption of innocence."
Gull said that a 37-year-old man who had been arrested Monday was released on bail pending further inquiries. Police did not say whether he remained a suspect and gave no details on when he would be required to return to a police station for further questioning.
Prosecutor Michael Crimp said there was "sufficient evidence" to charge Wright with the murders of Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell, Annette Nicholls and Gemma Adams.
Police arrested Wright at 5 a.m. on Tuesday at his home near where several of the women were last seen. Police also later seized a dark blue Ford Mondeo car from the property.
All five victims had been working as prostitutes and their naked bodies were found in rural areas around Ipswich over a period of about 10 days beginning Dec. 2.
Three of the bodies were found near the main road and the railway line between Ipswich and Trimley; the two others were discovered near the same road in areas south and southwest of Ipswich.
The British Broadcasting Corp. and other media reported earlier that Wright worked as a forklift driver and had lived in the area since September.
News reports identified Stephens as a part-time taxi driver, supermarket worker and former volunteer police officer. He was quoted in an interview with the Sunday Mirror newspaper as saying he knew all the victims, and regarded himself as their protector.
News of the arrest came a day after an inquest into the deaths of Nicol, Alderton, Clennell, and Nicholls. An inquest into the death of the fifth victim, Adams, 25, was held last week.
Thursday's developments were likely to bring some relief before the Christmas holidays to Ipswich residents, some of whom say their daily routines had been clouded by fear since the bodies were discovered.
The suspected serial killer reminded Britons of the so-called Yorkshire Ripper who killed 13 women over five years in the 1970s. That killing spree prompted comparisons to Jack the Ripper, the notorious Victorian serial killer who murdered at least five East London prostitutes in 1888.