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I vividly remember watching the case unfold on Sky news, and like the rest of the nation, being horrified at what was happening to some of the working girls of Ipswich. For someone that has a general interest in real life crime, this book is an excellent read. It's not dramatised or full of headline grabbing captions, it's told in a factual way by two of the people involved in the case.
Paul Harrison is one of the journalists that was first to report on the case, while David Wilson is a leading expert on serial killers.
One thing that they both deserve a lot of credit for is that they manage to tell the story of what has happened, whilst at the same time remaining sensitive to the families of all of those involved in such an appauling case.
An interesting account of one of the worst crimes our recent times.
I have an interest in serial killers and as I know Ipswich very well I, like most of the nation, watched in growing horror and panic as body after body was discovered in late 2006. Once Steve Wright was arrested and charged the media rightly ceased reporting on him and his alleged crimes, with interest only slightly resuming after his guilty verdict and whole life tariff sentence. I was curious though, I was obviously glad the beast was safely incarcerated but I felt I wanted to know a little more about the women he murdered and I especially wanted to find out just why he went on this sudden vendetta against the prostitutes he himself used.
Hunting Evil: Inside The Ipswich Serial Murders is jointly written by Paul Harrison and David Wilson. Paul Harrison is the journalist who broke the story of the murders and this is emblazoned on the front cover, although at the time of the investigation it really did not need very much breaking as Suffolk as a whole was literally crawling with police and forensics officers from around the time of the second murder and it was plain to everyone that something big was happening. David Wilson is a Professor of Criminology who is respected in his field, although he was actually hired by Sky News to profile the killer who was eventually proved to be Steve Wright and not by the police.
I thought the book started well and I settled down to read quite a gritty insight into the life of a prostitute working in the red light district of Ipswich, this was told in a way to help the reader get to know the five women who were murdered but I thought it was very generalised even though they were named and their personal stories were touched upon. I don't think I learned any more about the women themselves in this section than I have from watching reports on BBC News 24 and watching the very few programmes that have been made about these murders. Don't get me wrong, I didn't expect or want a complete biography on each woman but I was interested in the circumstances that drew them into the sex industry and also in their relationships with their families.
One thing I have a problem with in this book is the over the top empathy the authors claim to feel for these women. They were not portrayed well I don't think and as a reader I knew full well that these women were heroin addicts, they were prostitutes, they were certainly not the fun loving librarian types the author was attempting to describe! I don't know why he felt he had to portray these women in such a false way but I occasionally had to flick back to the front cover to look at the photos just to remind myself that I was reading about the women in the mug shots that we're all so familiar with and not a group of girl guides who had been taken against their will. The author was possibly attempting to shield their families from further pain by glossing over their lifestyles but I do not think he did them any favours with readers of this book.
The main focus of these murders, Steve Wright, is barely mentioned in Hunting Evil. There are no interviews with him, very little about his life before he hit the spotlight as one of the worst serial killers England has ever seen and not many references to the fact that he was a prostitute user before he started killing them. This I think is understandable in a way because such a short time has passed since the murders that Wright is undoubtedly considering all sorts of appeals and deals regarding his sentence so the book cannot be seen to be jeopardising what he does. Also, I think that there are still a lot of people to come out of Steve Wrights personal life so possibly the authors simply didn't have very much information to do on other than what the public already knows.
Some detail is given into the police investigation but I quickly realised there is no behind-the-scenes information or insights, and details such as picking up hairs with a pair of tweezers would be what I would expect from any murder investigation. I was disgusted with how vicious the media were in pursuit of new leads, but again when you watch Sky News interviewing women in ripped fishnet tights who are obviously high on drugs then I wonder how Paul Harrison has the gaul to criticise any news agencies.
As a book, Hunting Evil is a fairly easy read despite the harrowing subject matter and this is simply because the authors do not dwell very much on the more terrible details of the murders. There are obviously parts which will make you question humanity and how people can be so evil, but these are dumbed down somewhat. The book itself is as sensationalised as you would expect from a journalist but I think he should have gone into more depth about the murders themselves and the repercussions while Steve Wright was still on the loose. It read a little bit like a CSI novel to me because I think the authors fancy themselves as private detectives and between the lines I read that they seem to think they were crucial to solving the murders.
In reality they had very little to do with the investigation and this shows when you read the book. Everything is written from someone on the outside so there are no personal observations or information about things that happened away from the TV cameras. I recently read Kevin Wells book which is a similar work to Hunting Evil, where he has written about the disappearance of his daughter Holly Wells and her friend Jessica Chapman who were later found to have been murdered by scumbag Ian Huntley. He too gave information about the police investigation and the eventual court case, but his was peppered with personal thoughts and I could literally feel some little part of his pain as I read. There was none of this in Hunting Evil and I honestly feel that the authors have simply picked up on an idea for a book that is definitely going to sell well because of the hype surrounding the murders and rehashed old facts to earn themselves a wedge of money.
You can buy Hunting Evil from all bookshops, but have a look on Ebay first because you can pick up a copy for as little as £3 including postage. This I'd pay but when I bought my copy it cost £6.99 and considering how disappointed I am with it I do think this is a bit too expensive. For the avid crime fan I would say definitely read the book because it is interesting to read about the handling (or mishandling) of the investigation as a whole, but if you're looking for more detailed information into specifically the Ipswich murders then you'll be disappointed.
The nation was shocked when five women working as prostitutes in Ipswich were murdered in a short space of time and we breathed a collective sigh of relief as Steve Wright was captured and convicted of these crimes. I picked up this book hoping to learn more about what happened and especially what type of man is capable of committing such brutality against others. I was to be disappointed.
This book is written by Paul Harrison, a Sky TV journalist who claimed to break the story of the murders in Ipswich and David Wilson who is claimed to be the UK's number one expert on serial killers. I don't watch Sky TV so I didn't realise until reading that Wilson was in fact employed by Sky and not by the police to conduct a profile of the killer. This fact immediately lessened any respect I would have had for him. The authors of this book seem to think that they helped to play a major part in solving the murders and seems to ignore the fact that it was actually the police who solved the case.
The book opens with a description of life within the red light zone of Ipswich and introduces us to the murder victims. Whilst it was good that these women were portrayed sympathetically, I felt there was something missing from these profiles. It told of their descent into drugs and a life of prostitution and the families which they came from but it painted a picture of almost saintly women. I have known a few drug users over the years and I don't feel the book really describes the chaotic type of lifestyles that drug addicts lead or adequately describes their characters.
I learned little about the police investigation from this book, but felt a lot of sympathy for the ordinary people of Ipswich as the media descended. I was pretty furious when I read of cherry pickers and helicopters being used to try and spy when a house was being forensically examined in the hope that Sky managed to get a little glimpse of some evidence being uncovered.
David Wilson seems to have little part in the writing of this book. There is a little bit written about the history of serial killers and what drives them is spoken about in very general terms. Don't bother reading this book if you are expecting an in depth profile of Steve Wright, he is actually given very little space in this book and the authors never talked to him.
In the final chapter of the book Harrison talks about the problem of prostitution and serial killing and what we can do to solve these problems. This was the part of the book which I found most interesting with some facts and figures linking the rise in violent crimes in general to the increasing divide between rich and poor. I particularly liked the ideas of criminalising the men who use prostitutes rather than the women earning a living in that way.
Overall, I found this book to be a let down. I found it was quite sensationally written and I learned very little from reading it and indeed felt like I was intruding on other peoples misery in a period of time where they are trying to recover their lives in the aftermath of tragedy.
I find a certain fascination in true crime books so a quick glance along my bookshelf will reveal books about the Yorkshire Ripper, Harold Shipman and Fred and Rosemary West so I guess it was inevitable that sooner or later I would buy a book about Steve Wright - the so-called 'Suffolk Strangler'. Perhaps it was even more likely because I also happen to live just outside Ipswich so have a knowledge of many of the areas where he was operating. Add to that an interest in psychology and you can perhaps understand why I bought a copy of Hunting Evil: Inside the Ipswich Serial Murders last week almost as soon as it hit the shelves.
Hunting Evil is written by Sky news journalist Paul Harrison who is claiming to be the 'Journalist who broke the story' - well he might have been to the wider world but, here in Ipswich, I was aware of it around the time the very first girl, Tania Nicol, went missing. I spotted a tiny piece of news in the East Anglian Daily Times which said that a 19 year old girl was missing and, at the time, I can remember being a little puzzled that it warranted so little space in the newspaper - just a few short paragraphs on an inside page for a teenager missing from home. At that time nothing was said about how she earned her living but, I am guessing that was why it didn't make the front page and feature on the TV news.
Co-author of the book is Professor David Wilson a leading criminologist who is said on the front cover to be 'the UK's No 1 expert on serial killings'. He joined Paul Harrison covering the story for Sky news on 8th December 2006 just after the second body had been found. By that time it was already major news locally - in fact it became a significant story in Suffolk as soon as Gemma Adams went missing, sufficient to warrant headlines and at that time far more was made of Tania Nicol's disappearance as the two were seen as being possibly linked. Gemma's body was found on 2nd December, Tania's was found on 6th December but it wasn't until two days later that the world's media got involved and effectively the story that Paul Harrison is recounting.
The style of the book
The two authors make a fascinating combination with Paul Harrison having the news reporter's skill of bringing the story to life and investigating a little of the background of the characters. David Wilson looks in more depth into motivation, psychological profiling and the methods employed by serial killers.
It works well in that the book is far more than just a chronological account of a period in the history of Ipswich which many of the residents found extremely distressing. It does not seek to recount all of the evidence given in court, which was for the most part centred on the forensic evidence, but it dips lightly into the relevant points in painting a picture.
What is does not do is come up with any answers on why Steve Wright murdered five women over the course of six weeks and deposited their bodies in rural locations. It talks about the motivation of murderers in general and the difficulties of understanding why serial killers embark on their grisly journey.
Would I recommend it?
This is very much a niche book intended I suspect for people like myself who are fascinated by the psychology of murder. If you are interested in that type of book then this book will make an interesting read. There are no answers to the question everyone wants to know which is 'why did he do it?' but there is plenty of food for thought about motivation in there.
I found it an easy read and was interested enough to read it from cover to cover in a couple of days which is recommendation in itself. It didn't tell me anything about the killings I didn't already know (but then I did follow it in some detail throughout the trial) and it does miss out a lot of the detail which came out in the trial but it is thought provoking and interesting. Worth a read if you like this type of book.
Cover price £6.99 (I got mine from Amazon at £5.59)
A Sphere title by Little, Brown Book Group.
This review also published on Ciao by laramax
The murder of five women in late 2006 shocked the nation and kept many of us glued to our TV screens, horrified by the unfolding tragedy. For the quiet town of Ipswich it was fifty days of fear and soul searching, from the disappearance of the first victim to the dramatic arrest of the lead suspect, Steve Wright. Journalist Paul Harrison and Professor of Criminology David Wilson arrived in Ipswich just as the first body was discovered. Their on-the-scene access, and Professor Wilson's first-hand experience as a profiler, meant that they were first to put forward the explosive theory that a serial killer was at large. In Hunting Evil, Harrison and Wilson take the reader to the heart of the story. Both visited the sites where the killer disposed of his victims' bodies; both walked the red light area of Ipswich; and both talked to those closest to the victims. They explore the reasons why someone will kill and kill again, and perhaps most important of all explain how serial killers target the must vulnerable in our society, and what can be done to make our communities safer for everyone.