British police have identified the fourth of five women believed to have been victims of a serial killer targeting sex workers, as mourners gathered to pay tribute to the slain prostitutes.
The body was identified Thursday as that of a woman who told reporters days before her death she was afraid, but needed to carry on working in the city's red light district to support her heroin habit.
The naked body of 24-year-old Paula Clennell was found in a field flanking a freeway on the outskirts of the tiny town in eastern England. Police said she died from "compression to the neck," but refused to elaborate.
She vanished days after telling a TV reporter she needed to earn money to buy drugs.
"Poor girls," said Angela Marjoram, one of some 50 parishioners who attended a memorial at a 1,000-year-old church.
Inside the hushed pews, the sober congregation interrupted their annual Christmas carol service to light candles for each of the dead women.
Elderly women wiped tears away from beneath their thick glasses, as the vicar read out the names of the prostitutes.
The youngest 19-year-old Tania Nicol whose body was found in a pond last week used to frequent the courtyard of the church, where teenagers often gathered late at night. Often, they would find the young woman sitting alone on the church steps, or leaning against the wall of St. Mary and St. Botolph Church, smoking a cigarette, a dazed expression on her face.
A 79-year-old woman came to tend the grave of her dead husband at the church, saying she'd come early to finish scrubbing the tombstone before dusk. "I now go home before it gets dark," said Lily Marsh, as she unwrapped a bag of plastic roses, hurrying to finish before the light began to fade.
Throughout the town, women spoke of how fear clouded their daily routines.
Town authorities organized shuttle services to get women home from the local council offices, and the council's monthly newsletter was publishing a safety message: "Stick Together" advising all women in the city to stay off the streets alone. Two of the town's largest employers have equipped their female employees with panic alarms.
Late Thursday night, authorities announced they had deployed officers with special equipment to scan license plates. People with previous violations would be stopped, reports AP.
"When it first started, people were able to detach themselves and say, it's not something that affects me," explained Terry Hunt, editor of the East Anglian Daily Times, one of the dominant newspapers in eastern England.
"But as it accelerated and more bodies were found, people started feeling it does affect me. They began asking, 'Is he after prostitutes? Or is he after women and prostitutes just happen to be easier prey?"' he said.
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.
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