Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Obscure Streetwalker Strangler

The Ipswich Factor

Some forensics experts have predicted that DNA testing would be a boon to solving other long-forlorn specimens from the vast cold case catalogue of prostitute serial murders in America. That really hasn't happened, perhaps because domestic prostitution murders are not a priorityto police, the media or the public.

Curiously, those in Great Britain seem to rate much higher.

The New York Times, for example, covered Gilyard's murders of 13 women with two wire service briefsone when he arrested, the other when convicted.

Ipswich Murder Victims
Ipswich Murder Victims

Yet when five prostitutes were murdered last year near Ipswich, England, the paper reported the case with three staff-written storiestwo of them roughly 1,000 words eachand several others drawn from wire service accounts. (Ironically, one of the staff stories mulled why it was that the press was so enthralled with the Ipswich cases while all but ignoring a series of prostitute murders in Atlantic City.)

The Ipswich murders caused a sensation in the British press, and that interest seemed to ripple across the English-language media around the world. Scores of major American media outlets, including newspapers and television, covered the case. Veronica Monet, the advocate and ex-call girl, told the Crime Library that the Ipswich story got so much attention in part because it was championed by the very vocal British chapter of Sex Workers Outreach Project.

There were other factors, of course.

The American press tends to view murdered streetwalkers as immoral women who are accountable for their own demise. In Britain, the press takes a more sympathetic, paternal view of prostitutes as being tragically flawed. One of the Ipswich victims, Gemma Adams, became known as "Our Gemma" in British headline shorthand.

Monet, 47, of California, said she doesn't buy the argument that streetwalkers place themselves at risk by doing exceptionally dangerous work.

"It doesn't matter whether you're selling hotdogs, newspapers or pussy," she said. "When you sell it on the street, somebody's going to bash you over the head and try to take it from you."

And no matter what your product, she said, you deserve protection.

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