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Prostitute deaths: 'Known suspects'

Story Highlights

• Detective hunting killer of five prostitutes says there are "a number" of suspects
• All cases now linked as fifth victim identified as prostitute Annette Nicholls
• Police have taken 7,000 calls from public, including 1,800 in last day
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IPSWICH, England (CNN) -- The detective leading the hunt for the killer of five prostitutes in eastern England has said officers have a "number" of suspects despite few obvious signs of a breakthrough.

After a fifth victim was identified as prostitute Annette Nicholls on Friday, police finally linked all five cases, indicating they believe all the victims were killed by the same person. All the victims' bodies were found naked in rural areas near the town of Ipswich.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull told reporters Friday detectives were interested in several people, some of whom were clients of prostitutes.

"We have got a range of individuals who have been suggested to us. Some are local but some are not. Some are not punters."

Gull refused to say how many suspects but said his detectives were making "good progress."

"The launch of a fifth murder inquiry in such a short space of time is unprecedented for Suffolk constabulary," he added.

Gull said his message to the people of Ipswich, near where the five bodies have been found this month, was: "Don't panic."

Nichols was a 29-year-old prostitute who had been reported missing. Her body was found three day ago, naked but still wearing jewelry. (Timeline)

On Thursday, police identified the other body as Paula Clennell, 24, also a missing prostitute.

Initial post-mortem tests failed to reveal a clear cause of Nicholls' death, but additional testing is being done.

The British medical examiner determined that Clennell died from "compression to the neck."

Police had already determined that Anneli Alderton, 24, whose body was found Sunday near a roadway after it was spotted by a motorist, died from asphyxiation, according to Gull.

When asked if the two women were strangled to death, Gull would not go beyond Home Office pathologist Nat Cary's characterizations.

Police believe all five may have been killed by the same perpetrator, or perpetrators, because of the "striking similarities" in the locations of their bodies, Gull said.

While all five young women were found naked in rural wooded areas outside Ipswich, officially only the deaths of Gemma Adams, 25, and Tania Nicol, 19, have been forensically linked, he said.

Both Adams' and Nicol's bodies were found under water in two streams, and were still wearing jewelry when they were recovered, Gull said.

All five bodies were believed to have been dumped at the sites outside Ipswich and killed at different locations, Gull said.

Blue BMW

So far, Suffolk police have taken 7,000 calls from the public, including 1,800 in the last day, with possible tips for their investigation, Gull said. Police continue to appeal for any information about the last whereabouts of the five young women. Police believe the key to finding the perpetrator may lie in the clothing they were last wearing.

They hope that information will allow them to find images of the five women on closed-circuit TV. Investigators are already looking over CCTV video from nearby areas, including the train stations where Alderton is believed to have been on December 3.

Investigators are also interviewing Ipswich prostitutes, and hope to track one prostitute who told British media that she last saw Alderton get into a blue BMW, Gull said.

Most of the town's 30 to 40 prostitutes are heeding warnings to stay off the streets, Gull said. (Full story)

Suffolk Police are now getting help from 26 other police forces nationwide and more than 250 officers are on the case.

"These are five young women who have been killed and that will affect anybody," Assistant Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer told CNN. "We've all got partners, we've all got children. We've all got people we know who live and work in the area. So it does have an emotional effect on people."

The killings have sparked international media attention: Journalists from Japan, the Netherlands, and Germany are in the eastern Suffolk County covering the story.

British tabloid "News of the World" has offered a £250,000 ($490,000) reward for any information leading to the capture and conviction of the killer or killers.

'Gladness of happy times'

Nicol's parents, Kerry Nicol and Jim Duell, issued a statement Friday that Duell read to reporters:

"Tania was a lovely daughter -- she was a caring, loving, sensitive girl who would never hurt anyone. Unfortunately, drugs took her away into her own secret world -- a world that neither of us were aware of," Duell said.

"Tania has been taken by someone who needs to be found. We ask that anyone who knows this person or persons to come forward and contact the police.

"We would like to thank all the people who have offered help so far, but ask anyone who has information, however small, please tell us, even if they come forward anonymously."

He also tried to comfort the other families: "They can't take away our memories, they can't take away our love, our fortitude, our courage. Grieve for our daughters but not unnecessarily.

"Live your lives through your departed daughters as they would want to see us move on with our lives, and not going around with our heads bowed down.

"A time for sadness and a time for gladness, a gladness that they belong to us, a gladness of happy times they shared, the joy they brought to us, the thankfulness that they are now at peace. Amen."

CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh contributed to this report.



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