FORMER truck lift driver Steve Wright appeared in court today, accused of killing five prostitutes.
Although he arrived at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court at 9.30am in the back of a police personel carrier, the hearing did not start until 10.10am.
Other than confiming his name as Steve Gerald James Wright, the 48-year-old – who was formally charged with murder at around 10pm last night – said nothing.
The charges – that he murdered prostitutes Gemma Adams, 25, Anneli Alderton, 24, Tania Nicol, 19, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29 – were then read out to him.
Wright, who was dressed in a smart black suit bought for him by Suffolk Police officers, was remanded in custody at the six-minute hearing before Ipswich Magistrates’ Court.
He is due back at Ipswich Crown Court on January 2.
His lawyer said of his client: “Anybody accused of these sort of offences will be distressed by the very fact of the accusations, but given the circumstances, he is bearing up well.
“He was treated in a very civilised fashion while in custody and given proper clothing, washing facilities, and he was provided with cigarettes and refreshments. So, we have no complaints about how he was treated by Suffolk Police.”
When asked if Wright had protested his innocence or how he intends to plea, Paul Osler declined to comment – saying to do so would be “inappropriate”.
“Restraint (by the press) is needed”
On the press coverage so far, he said: “He’s aware of the extent of the press coverage but only because I’ve told him rather than him seeing it.
“He has not been watching television while he has been in the police station and I doubt he has even read a newspaper, but he’s aware of the extent of interest.”
But Osler voiced concern about the nature of some of the coverage.
In particular, he pointed to a TV report where the presenter – shortly after Wright was formally charged – described the case as “having been solved”.
Osler said: “That was a grossly ill-informed and dangerous statement. It is vital that everybody understands that someone is presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law.
“One can understand the the extent of the interest in a case like this but a great deal of restraint is needed and excitement needs to be contained.”
He said that while he hadn’t been through all the coverage on the case “sufficiently”, he would be doing so in due course, adding: “Always if press coverage is such as to interfere with a fair trial, defence lawyers will look at whether or not an argument should be put before the court.
“And the argument would be that the prosecution had begun an abuse of process because there could no longer be a fair trial. That aspect will be considered by us in due course.
“It would be negligent for lawyers not to have regards to that but I can’t say what view we will form at this stage.”
“One of the most serious legal cases in UK history”
When asked if Wright would be likely to get special treatment while in prison on remand before his next court appearance, he said: “I’m not aware of the depth of feeling about this case among prisoners.
“But it would be an obvious thing for the prison authorities to have in mind and I have no doubt they will take precautions in that regard.”
On future hearings he said: “Inevitably, there will be a legal team. This is going to be a very serious Crown Court case – one of the most serious in UK history, apparently”.
Asked if the case comes to trial, would he expect it to be heard in a court outside the Ipswich area – as in other high-profile cases – he added that he “would have thought so.”