Vice girl strangler may have struck before

A MAN sentenced to life imprisonment for strangling a prostitute to death could have carried out other attacks on vice girls, police believe.

Former soldier Edward Akester bound and gagged Lynne Barwick in a brutal attack, later dumping her naked body in bushes at the back of the giant BP chemical works in Hull last June.

Sentencing the 27-year-old to a minimum of 30 years yesterday, Judge Michael Mettyear called the mechanic – who saw himself as a protector of girls working in the city's red-light district – a "very dangerous" man.

He said: "In your behaviour to this unfortunate woman you showed no mercy and I shall show none to you."

Akester had pleaded not guilty to murder, but was convicted unanimously by a jury at Hull Crown Court.

One of the fears of police is that Akester, a mechanic at T&R Motors in Great Union Street, Hull, had access to vehicles from his workplace and could have travelled all over the country.

Since being in custody, Akester has been interviewed in relation to a number of other attacks on prostitutes in Hull. He will be interviewed again in prison.

But one of the difficulties of the police investigation is that because many have drug and alcohol problems and incidents are sometimes reported days after they have happened sensitive DNA evidence is often lost.

The officer who led the inquiry, Det Supt Ray Higgins, said: "I can't prove he's attacked any other prostitute, but personally I believe he has. There is a real potential he's been involved in other attacks on prostitutes either here or elsewhere in the country."

He added: "We have interviewed him for a number of offences. These remain live and we will continue to investigate them."

Akester has a previous conviction for strangling a prostitute and the court also heard of an attack on a girlfriend in which he blacked out only to come round and discover he had his hands round her throat.

The court heard that, having stolen a van from his workplace, Akester picked up the 29-year-old in Hull's red-light district and took her to his home in Estcourt Street, Hull, later launching a sadistic attack, squeezing her neck so tightly that her cartilage snapped and leaving her with 50 injuries including ligature marks round her wrists and knife marks to her neck.

Police say Akester used to associate with prostitutes – some of whom he offered his services to as "protection" – and tried to form relationships with them.

He told the trial that he let some girls go to his house and smoke drugs.

"But he has always been perceived as a bit of a weirdo," said Mr Higgins.

CCTV played a huge role during the investigation, police recovering more than 50 images of the van Akester stole travelling to Porter Street where Miss Barwick, a mother-of-one who was on the run from Askham Grange Prison, York, where she was serving a sentence for burglary, had gone to earn money.

One image showed just one person driving, the next showed another person in the passenger seat. Other cameras caught the van returning to Estcourt Street, just metres from Akester's home, before leaving in the direction of Paull nearly two hours later.

There was also a wealth of forensic evidence – fibres from her clothes were in the van as well as her hair and blood found on the fireplace.

A bite on her leg was a perfect match with his teeth. Akester's house was littered with incriminating items – a bag full of torn garments and condoms made from freezer bags.

One woman told police that a man offered her 30 for sex – or 300 if the person went to Estcourt Street. "There was every possibility that was Akester and perhaps that was the line he used on Lynne," said Mr Higgins.

"Considering the fact that he has attacked two women in very similar fashion, he does appear to be a very dangerous man – one of the most dangerous we have come across in terms of potential for future offending.

"He has come out with a story that has developed as the case has gone along and developed further in the witness box – purely to suit the evidence available."