British police have arrested a 37-year-old man suspected of murdering five women in the eastern coastal town of Ipswich. The murder hunt story has gripped the British public for the past two weeks. For VOA News, Tom Rivers reports from London.

When the bodies of five women showed up dumped on the outskirts of the normally sleepy town of Ipswich earlier this month, locals were quickly frightened and the story grabbed national attention.

The dead women ranged in age from 19 to 29. All were drug-users. All worked as prostitutes to pay for their drug habits. Their bodies were all discovered naked along a busy highway in the rural countryside surrounding Ipswich, a town of just more than 100,000 people about 115-kiometers east of London.

The horrific story gripped the attention of the nation. Police received more than 10,000 calls from the public with information, and 500 officers from 30 different forces helped in the intense investigation. Dozens of media appeals were made.

Now, Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull has made a dramatic announcement.

"Detectives investigating the murder of five women in [the] Ipswich area have today, Monday the 18th of December 2006, arrested a man," he said. "The 37-year-old man was arrested at his home address in Trimley near Felixstowe at approximately 7:20 AM this morning. He has been arrested on the suspicion of murdering all five women. Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell, Annette Nicholls."

Trimley is a small village near Ipswich. The man under arrest is a supermarket worker named Tom Stephens. A number of British newspapers report that he was questioned by police early in the investigation.

Superintendent Gull says for legal reasons, his department will be releasing very little information during the next few days.

"The man is currently in custody at a police station in Suffolk [county] where he will be questioned about the deaths later today," he said. "We will not be naming the police station where the man is being held. As legal proceedings are now active, Suffolk police will not be issuing any further comment or appeals at this stage."

Investigators have cordoned off Stephens' home and forensic teams are busy at work.

Meanwhile, locals will be watching developments closely as many women in Ipswich are now too terrified to go out alone at night.