Sunday, December 24, 2006

EXCLUSIVE: Secrets of 'Suffolk Strangler'

By Georgina Dickinson

(Additional reporting: CHRIS TATE)

THE HEARTBROKEN elderly mum of Steve Wright believes her confused son is LAPPING UP the notoriety of being a suspected serial killer.

Collapsing in tears, Patricia Wright, 67, revealed: "Steve is normally a bit withdrawn. I think now he is enjoying all the attention without realising the seriousness of it all.

"All of a sudden he is like a star. Everybody is talking about him and he's on the news. He doesn't understand how terrible this is."

But Patricia, who fled a violent marriage and moved to the United States when Wright was still a teenager, is convinced her son is innocent of the murders of five Ipswich prostitutes.

She said: "This is a serial killer, a monster. I don't think Steve is smart enough to be a serial killer and cover his tracks."

Patricia sobbed as she spoke exclusively to the News of the World at her home on America's East Coast hours after forklift driver Wright, 48, appeared in court charged with the Suffolk Strangler murders. She recalled how he:

- SUFFERED a troubled childhood at the hands of his disciplinarian father Conrad, an RAF corporal.

- HELD his breath until he passed out if he feared a smack from his strict dad.

- ENJOYED having a string of girlfriends that he aways treated like princesses.

- SAVED stray animals as a child and always looked after them.

- TURNED against her under his father's influence after the divorce.

- FELL out with her in a drunken, four-letter rage the last time they met.

Shattered Patricia told how she has been weeping ever since learning of her son's arrest.

She said: "My daughter Jeanette called and told me that they were questioning Steve for the five prostitutes that had been murdered. I said, ‘Oh my God'.

"Then I turned on the TV and there it was. I've been watching the news ever since. I have been crying for about three days. It's so unbelievable. I was worse when they actually charged him...then the floodgates really opened.

"Steve couldn't do anything like that. I don't believe he did it, but if he did, he needs help. It's not something a sane person does and he seemed pretty sane to me."

Retired veterinary nurse Patricia, who now lives with second husband Ron, added: "My heart and my prayers go out to the families of these young girls who did not deserve to die the way they did."

Patricia married Wright's father Conrad, an RAF corporal, soon after she got pregnant aged 16 in 1956. They had children David, now 49, Steve, 48, Tina, 47, and Jeanette, 45.

She says her second son was the apple of her eye. But he had a rough upbringing at the hands of his dad as they lived on RAF bases across the world before finally settling in Suffolk.

Patricia said: "Steve was shy — especially in a crowd — but he was such a love when he was a kid.

"He loved animals. One time in Singapore he and his brother brought home a snake. Then it was a turtle and then a puppy from the beach.

"I never saw any violence there. He definitely didn't have it in him when he was a little boy."

But her marriage to Conrad turned into a fiery one. She recalled: "As we went to Malta and then to Singapore the marriage became increasingly violent.

"Steve was withdrawn. He was afraid of his strict dad if I wasn't there. He would actually hold his breath and pass out if he thought his dad was going to smack him."

The family returned from the Far East and Patricia made the decision to get out. She intended to take the children too.

But when they arrived in Ipswich she says her husband grabbed their sons and told her: "You're not getting the boys."

Patricia was forced to abandon her children and move into a bedsit.

She said: "I went to the welfare people and tried to get my children back. But they wouldn't let me have them because I was living in one room.

"Conrad poisoned the children against me. He said I left them because I didn't care.

"I wrote a letter to him asking to be allowed to visit them but he wouldn't let me."

Patricia moved to the USA and didn't see any of her children again for more than 15 years.

But she was reunited with twice-married Wright when she visited him during Christmas 1992 at the pub he was running.

She recalled: "At first Steve was great. We talked a lot and we were fine. He lived above the pub on the outskirts of London and we stayed with him. He had a baby then.

"He had the prettiest hair still and he had a lovely smile. Then he changed completely before I went to the airport.

"When I got home he left this terrible message on my phone. He was drunk and I could hardly understand very much. It was F this and F that.

"If he could say those terrible things he obviously didn't want anything to do with me."

In another insight into her son's life, Patricia added: "Steve's had a rotten life but he doesn't go around killing people. I don't believe he would do that. He was never cruel.

"He didn't have any problems getting girlfriends. He always seemed very nice to them. But he never seemed able to stay with one woman."

Former QE2 steward Wright, who was arrested on Tuesday, is being held at London's Belmarsh prison in the same suite which once housed Soham murderer Ian Huntley.

He is accused of killing prostitutes Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, Annette Nicholls, 29, and Paula Clennell, 24. whose naked bodies were found dumped on the outskirts of Ipswich.

Patricia is hoping to get a message to him in his cell. She sobbed: "I want to tell him I am here if he needs me.

"I'd tell him I don't believe he did what they are saying. I'm praying for him."

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