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Audience response

Host Host | 17:20 UK time, Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Five Live's Matt Morris wrote on Monday about the use of the word "prostitute" in the Ipswich murder inquiry. BBC viewers, listeners and users have been offering feedback on how the story has been reported - here are some more of their thoughts.

Lee Taylor was among those who still felt strongly about the labelling of the women as prostitutes. "I was a bit offended by your headline today 'Third prostitute was asphyxiated'. It makes the victims seem less than human to call them prostitutes rather than girl/s or woman/women which is what they are."

Many callers took issue with the use of the term "girls" since the victims are all adults.

Matt Wells wrote that he heard "a (female) correspondent on the midnight Radio 4 news use the phrase 'local women AND prostitutes admit they're terrified'. What a dehumanising form of words. Are prostitutes not women too? Surely it should have been something like: 'Local women, and prostitutes in particular, admit they're terrified.'"

Some users felt it was necessary for the word prostitute to be included. Dave Browne wrote: "What's the alternative? 'Someone was killed somewhere, somehow'? You might as well not bother! Any news story will be made more tangible and gain news value if it includes plenty of facts. Yes, it may be insensitive to broadcast details that innocent victims or their families would rather were kept private. But with every fact left out of a story such as this, its power to inform seeps away."

Simon Hatton wrote: "The term prostitute is correct: because as prostitutes these women are making themselves more vulnerable to attack, and therefore, it is necessary for the police to make this distinction in order to curb the panic surrounding these murders. It is not a matter of degradation in the slightest."

Gina Hickley picked up on Matt's question of whether the women's jobs would have been included if they had been plumbers. She thought it would. "If three plumbers had been murdered and two were missing, surely you would report their trade as it would be pretty freaky? The serious point here is that if I were a sex worker/prostitute in the Suffolk area I would be grateful for the information and would either wait until the serial killer is caught before I go out to work again, or switch catchment areas."

Jack Matthew Leahy pointed out the assumption that the killer of the women was a man. "What makes this a 'he'?" he asked. And Joanne said: "I'm far more concerned about giving the murder a name - 'The Ipswich Ripper'. It gives him/her something to 'live' up to."

Many callers thought various interviews with Brian Clennell , the father of one of the missing women, had been inappropriate.

Your further comments are welcome.


  • 1.
  • At 09:35 PM on 13 Dec 2006,
  • John, Devon wrote:

OK, those of us who complained have made our point and you seem to have recognised it. I hope we won't need to bother you again if similar circumstances arise.

But just to reinforce the key issue:

Everyone now knows the murdered women were prostitutes. Can you now start referring to them as women, only commenting on the fact that they were prostitutes when it is relevant to the development you are reporting? And by the way, could you remind some of your reporters that they were women, not girls. Would they have called a 29 year old man a "boy"? No, I thought not...

  • 2.
  • At 10:44 PM on 13 Dec 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

This is too sad for a number of reasons. It would be kind just to publish the facts and leave the friends and families to deal with their loss: a forlorn hope I suppose.

I think it is perfectly necessary to use the term 'prostitutes' because it serves to remind the public that such profession is very dangerous.

  • 4.
  • At 09:09 AM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

Hasn't this exact topic already been done? Moreover this is the third topic made on this page with regards to the ipswitch murders.

Whilst yes its a important story etc it is starting to get a bit repetitive, espeically this particular one becuase you've already done a bit about using the word prostitutes.

Change the record please.

  • 5.
  • At 09:44 AM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Alan Meade wrote:

Political correctness should not be allowed to get in the way of accurate reporting. a prostitute is a prostitute--end of story.The circmstances which lead to carrying out this trade are a different matter. Some see it as a way to make easy money. To class them all as 'working girls' does a disservice to real hard working women all over the world who can get out of bed and do a hard day's work, often in circumstances that our 'working girls' would find hard to imagine.
If accurate reporting is to be sacrificed on the alter of political correctness the public will look to other sources for factual information, probably the web.

  • 6.
  • At 10:36 AM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Mark E wrote:

I think that all the people who think that calling these woman prostitutes (if that is what they were) to be making them "seem less then human" should take a long hard look at themselves and realise how disgraceful that sounds.

Are they trying to apply that prostitutes are not human? Do they look down on living prostitutes but allow them to regain their "humanity" in death?

Perhaps if they considered prostitution to be a profession like any other they would not feel the need for the media to remove the term from the headline.

Would they have the same "moral" outrage if the headline had the word "teacher" or "lawyer" instead of prostitute? If you look through the BBC archive you will find recent murders that refer to both but nobody commented about that.

News article about Tom ap Rhys Pryce titled "Lawyer's life cut cruelly short":

Does his being a lawyer change the story? No, yet nobody queries why it is part of the headline.

Just as many of the headlines concerning the murder of Jane Longhurst mention that she was a teacher.

In neither of these cases was their profession relevant to the case. However, in this instance the profession of the victims is very likely to be relevant.

It is clear that people are only complaining as THEY feel that prostitutes are less then human and it is somehow an insult to refer to a woman who sells sex as one.

Actually, John... if the men had been prostitutes, there's every chance they would have been called "rent boys"... so, yes, possibly.

  • 8.
  • At 12:19 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Chloe wrote:

I cannot agree less with the previous comment made by John, it is factually correct to call the victims prostitutes, obviously this murderer is targeting prostitutes so it is correct to highlight the victims job title.
Please John take your PC agenda to the Guardian and stop being so uber-sensitive.

  • 9.
  • At 02:38 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Jodi wrote:

'a prostitute is a prostitute' (number 5). No, a prostitute ISN'T a prostitute. I don't define myself by my job, and I doubt you do either. These women were sisters, daughters, mothers, often forced into a direction they didn't particularly want to take. Please don't define them by what they did. It's fine to mention what they did - it would be surprising if it wasn't mentioned - but that isn't all they were. Don't be so judgemental.

  • 10.
  • At 04:28 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Bryan wrote:

Personally, I am more offended by the term "sex worker" Like it or not, these women were prostitutes and their profession should be labelled as such.

  • 11.
  • At 04:52 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Chad Henshaw wrote:

Calling the Victims Prostitutes in indeed valid, if we are looking at a serial killer, it is important for us to know all the facts linking the deaths.

I also dont see much of a problem calling them "Girls", in the age group that most of the victims appear to be in, a group of women are regularly refered to as "The Girls" (I guess as implying they look Youthfull, something Females seem to regard as important), and we use "Boyfriend" and "Girlfriend", not "Manfriend" and "Womanfriend".

In this case, we all understand the following fact, that several female sex workers have either gone missing, or been found dead, in Ipswich. If we know what is ment, are the exact words truly that improtant?

Its also fair to call the Serial Killer a He. Sadly, in recorded history, Male Serial killers seriously outnumber female ones.

  • 12.
  • At 06:28 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Jude wrote:

I would second the point about the majority of those killed being women, not girls. I've also been quite shocked by some of the coverage which includes comments from men saying their partners are 'not allowed out'; this seems odd given that every woman in Ipswich is terrified of one man - if you took all the men off the streets and told *them* to stay indoors in the dark women would be free to go out. I have no doubt people will deride this comment as 'politically correct' but really, take a minute to ask yourself why it's ok for women to be told to stay inside and not men.
Finally, how horrific that women are still on the streets or, potentially even worse, going to men's houses - what does that say about the men who are, still, even in these circumstances, paying to have sex with what we can all see are desperate and addicted people? The supply wouldn't be there without the demand and I can't see why the hostility is towards the exploited rather than those who are exploiting them.

  • 13.
  • At 08:33 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • becky wrote:

With all the victims being prositutes then there is nothing wrong in calling them prostitutes. After all that is what they do for a living.

Had the killer been targetting nurses, the media would have called them nurses. Does that de-humanise nurses because of their job title?

The only dehumanising going on around here is from those who are complaining about the media using the correct job title of these victims.

Some people really do need to get a grip on reality and shake themselves out of this PC Coma they have inflicted on themselves.

Re the Ipswich murders - I think the level of reporting is "Way over the Top" I object to senior police officers being "grilled" by the John Sopel's of this world. The Police do not have to "cow-tow" to the media - and their time would be better spent getting on with the investigation instead of fending off questions from "Arm-Chair Detectives"

I comment as a "committed newsophile" - but think tehre are more interesting happenings in the world than focusing so heavily on the Ipswich subject. Too much "Little Old England" syndrome !

  • 15.
  • At 10:36 AM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • Tara wrote:

It is factually accurate and relevant to the news to refer to the Ipswich victims as prostitutes. This is the feature they share.

However, every reference made to them appears to have been as 'prostitutes'. Where are the humanising details such as 'mother of two', 'one-time bakery assistant', 'film fanatic' or suchlike that usually accompany descriptions of victims. Once we have been told they work as prostitutes, it is biased to keep refering to them as prostitutes as if it were their only defining feature. They are women, girlfriends, daughters, mothers. They live somewhere. They grew up somewhere.

Perhaps it reveals an attitude where they are being blamed for their fates because of their jobs? Is that the media's intention? And if not, why don't they avoid it with a more balanced reporting style?

  • 16.
  • At 05:11 PM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • Themos Tsikas wrote:

After yesterday's anouncement that the SFO enquiry into BAe/Saudi will be dropped I expect to hear the BBC refer to the PM as a "prostitute". Or should it be a "pimp"?

  • 17.
  • At 09:07 PM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • Halldora Halldorsdottir wrote:

Two points.
Let´s talk about women in prostitution rather than prostitutes. It helps to distinguish between the person and the activity.
And the unspoken, unthinking way societies accept that the demand for sex, anytime and anywhere, is a natural law that must be obeyed.
It is the demand that is the driving force behind prostitution - not the supply.

  • 18.
  • At 01:08 AM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • stephen wrote:

there are a number of reasons for reporting that these women were prostitutes.

1. they were. at the fireworks fire recently it was reported that two fire officers and a police sergeant were kiled. to me this seems the same on that level.
2. we are probably dealing with a serial killer here and i would imagine that links such as having the same job are important in trying to find the killer, just like the fact that they were all from the same area is important.
3. it warns other people in the same group that there is an increased threat and so to be on guard.
4. it may indentify people as possible witnesses. we regularly here that it is often small pieces of information that lead to people being caught and having this knowledge may alert people to the fact that they are potential witnesses and encourage them to contact the police.

  • 19.
  • At 03:57 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • christopher g ralte wrote:

Re: The Ipswich Prostitute Murders.

The deaths of the five women is appauling. We live in a savage country. However, am I the only person to detect a note of hypocrisy about this whole business. When prostitutes move into your street they bring with them the kerb crawlers, propositioning our wives, girlfriends and daughters. They also bring their herion addicted mugging boyfriends.

These women are most certainly not girls. They are idle, good for nothing women. I believe that prostitution is not illigal, perhaps it should be.

This country seems to have become a nation of whimpering, simpering, sentimentalists. It's almost reminiscent of the death of Princess Diana.

Which is the worst tragedy, the death of Princess Diana, September 11:the Twin Towers or the Ipswich Murders?

  • 20.
  • At 03:45 PM on 13 Aug 2007,
  • christopher g ralte wrote:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to disassociate myself with the comments that I made above, I must have been feeling out of sorts at the time.

I feel very sorry for those young women and their families.

I met a young woman once whose mother had been murdered, she was traumatised and the sight was pathetic, she herself one could only be described as being half dead.

Full retraction

Yours Faithfully

Christopher G Ralte

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