Prostitutes plead for police amnesty after second death

The body of second missing Ipswich prostitute Tania Nicol (left) is believed to have been discovered by police in a pond today. The naked body of her friend Gemma Adams (right) was found last Saturday in a stream

The English Collective of Prostitutes believe other prostitutes have also gone missing from the area over recent years. They fear there will be a repeat of the Yorkshire Ripper horror unless they and their clients are immediately granted an amnesty from arrest.

This is a statement they have just issued and sent to me:

When prostitute women are not safe, no woman is safe

Gemma Adams and a woman the police believe to be Tania Nicol, have now both been found tragically murdered in Ipswich. We pass our deepest condolences to their loved ones. A number of women also working as sex workers have gone missing in the area in recent years. In order to save lives and not to repeat the horror of the Yorkshire Ripper, who was allowed to continue killing until 13 women had been murdered, the Suffolk police must not use the criminality imposed on sex workers by the prostitution laws as an excuse to deny women the protection we are all entitled to by law.

We demand:

  • an immediate temporary amnesty from arrest for prostitute women and clients so that anyone can come forward to give information to this inquiry without fear of criminalisation or harassment; (Previously, women with outstanding arrest warrants either couldn’t contact the police or when they did were arrested. (See Criminalisation: the price women and children pay, English Collective of Prostitutes response to the government’s review of the prostitution laws, December 2004)

  • an end to street sweeps, arrests and ASBOs against prostitute women and clients which have forced women into darker, more isolated areas making them more vulnerable to rape, violence and even murder. Women working under increased pressure are less able to look out for each other, have less time to check out clients and are forced to take more risks;

  • a change in police priorities; money and resources being used to prosecute women and clients for consenting sex must be re-directed into vigorously pursuing violent men and protection of all women

  • following the example of New Zealand, decriminalisation of the prostitution laws, which by criminalising sex workers signal that women’s lives are not worth much. The police and courts don’t protect women and violent men think they can get away with attacks.

The police are telling women to look out for each other and come forward with information. But whatever safety systems that women have and will work out among themselves, they can never substitute for the police doing the job that the public overwhelmingly wants them to do – protect sex workers from rape and other attacks.

Over 70% of prostitute women are mothers. As poverty, homelessness and debt go up and women’s wages go down, more women (especially with Xmas round the corner) are forced into prostitution to support themselves and their families. Every woman is some mother’s daughter, someone’s sister, aunt, beloved friend . . . Every life is of value.

I would like to know how many other women have gone missing too, is it feared they are also dead? Why haven’t we heard about this before?

I don’t see how police can deny this request from the ECP, otherwise they face alienating themselves at a time when they particularly need the trust of those whose lives were closely entwined with the two murdered young women, they will only force them underground. Suffolk police have already upset the local press, I’m wondering if the reporter’s investigation was based around this case.

As the statement says, every woman is someone’s mother, daughter, sister, aunt, beloved and friend. I hope that police and government will one day soon work with these women to legalise brothels rather than waste time and money on prosecuting adults for consensual sex.

Update: 9 December 2006, today’s Times, and the East Anglian, double murder hunt launched.

Update: 10 December 2006, today’s Sunday Times, fear that “East Anglia Ripper” has killed six.

Update: 10 December, BBC Online runs the same story.