Transcript: 167. The Ipswich Murders | England

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On Sunday, 9 August 2009, a resident living in a council-housing complex on Victoria Street, Ipswich, noticed something strange. In his neighbour’s window a bunch of large, black flies were crowding – he had never seen that before. That in itself was perhaps not cause for concern, but the apartment of Rosalyn ‘Rosie’ Hunt was unusually quiet that morning. Rosie had many homeless friends, and often spent time with them, drinking and smoking. He had also heard some screams coming from Rosie’s place in the days before. Police came, but they didn’t seem to find anything suspicious.


The neighbour had not physically seen Rosie for a couple of days and thought it would be prudent to call police again, so they could conduct a welfare check. On entering the premises that morning, the officers found Rosie’s body on a mattress in her bedroom. Initial indications suggested that she was in the early stages of decomposition and had been violently assaulted.


Although Rosie lived in a harsh environment, she was well-liked and had many friends. Her death shocked the community and members of the street drinking crowd of Ipswich decided to come forward to tell police a chilling story…


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Desmond Thorpe, 43-years-old, originally from Norfolk had met and married Deborah and together they had four children, of which Lorraine Thorpe was one. The family seemed happy for a while, living at Clapgate Lane in the south of Ipswich. Perhaps not the best of areas to raise a family, due to the high crime rate. But in their little corner, the Thorpes were doing okay. 


Growing up, Lorraine was quite a handful. With guidance from teachers, her parents had her tested and she was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder – or ADHD. With the diagnosis, came prescription drugs, and soon the always smiling Lorraine was much better. But just as she was about to enter her teens, life as she knew it, changed forever. Over the years, Des and Deborah’s marriage had deteriorated. Both of them drank excessively and their home life became unbearable. 


So, in 2006, when Lorraine was 12 years old, they decided to separate. Ipswich Social Services intervened and Lorraine was placed in foster care. After a while, she moved back in with her mother, but this didn’t quite work out. She had always preferred her dad over her mom and went looking for Des.  


At this stage Lorraine made sure she remained close to her dad and wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. Sadly, after separating from Deborah, Des found himself in a downward spiral. He had fallen into alcoholism and in the space of two years, he was in a bad way. Des was a chronic alcoholic and was incapable of looking after himself or functioning to some degree without a regular intake of alcohol. He was unable to tend to his own personal hygiene and toileting needs and he wasn’t a shadow of the man he used to be.


Because of Des’s alcoholism, he spent all of his time with Ipswich’s drinking community. He hardly ever had a place to stay and slept rough on the streets. He occasionally found shelter in the squalid flat of a drinking buddy, and Lorraine decided to give up the comforts of home to be with her dad. She loved him and wanted to care for him, but that meant that she often had to sleep out on the streets with him. Social Services found her and placed her in foster homes over time, but she always ran away. Lorraine became adept at hiding from social workers and in the years that followed, she spent more time on the streets than anywhere else. 


Lorraine’s childhood pretty much ended with her parents’ separation. She did not go to school anymore and she had no friends. She gave it all up to become Des’s full-time caregiver. Eventually Des became so incapacitated, due to his consumption of large amounts of alcohol that he could barely walk, certainly not unaided, continually needing the assistance of someone to lean on, that someone was, by 2009, 15-year-old Lorraine.


It was through her father that Lorraine also became involved with the street drinking community. By all accounts it would seem that Lorraine had had very little care, compassion and love in her life, and within the crowd of social outcasts, she felt a sense of belonging. 


But it was far from the ideal environment for an impressionable young girl. She witnessed constant drinking, drug use, stealing, fighting – everything parents typically try to protect their children from. But Des was far gone, and his self-destructive behaviour was heart-breaking to witness. He was quite weak, and a soft target for the bullies in the group.


Lorraine met dangerous and aggressive people, like John Grimwood – a long-time substance abuser, and leader-of-the-pack, 41-year-old, ex-military man, Paul Clarke. Paul had a soft spot for Lorraine and stepped in to protect her if others hassled her. This was something her own father was incapable of doing. 


Having become a child of the local social care system, rejected by her mother as it would appear to her and then becoming a crutch for her father’s chronic alcoholism, it is little wonder that she latched on to the first person that showed her some interest. Lorraine most likely enjoyed the attention she was getting from Paul, and in some ways must have been impressed that someone so high up in street hierarchy, was paying attention to her.


Paul was proud of his military background and had an explosive angry streak. During an interview for the production of Murder Town, Brian Tobin, who set up a charity to help some of the Ipswich Street drinkers get back on their feet, stated: 


“I first came in to contact with Paul Clarke in 2008. You could sense the aggression, you could see that he was always the leader, if you like. And from what I know of Paul, I think he would have led by fear, intimidation and violence. He was a very dangerous individual and I always thought that in 2008 when I met him.”


But not everyone in the crowd was as notorious and aggressive as Paul. Rosalyn Hunt was a 41-year-old mother-of-two, with a kind and caring nature. By 2009, Rosie had separated from her husband, who kept custody of their children. She was living alone in a council owned flat at 87 Victoria Street, Ipswich. Rosie, a chronic alcoholic, soon became a member of the Ipswich drinking community, to which Lorraine and Des Thorpe belonged. 


Her brother, Adrian Provins, remembered a Rosie from happier times. He said:


“Rosalyn was my youngest sister. What I remember about Rosie, growing up as a little girl was, she was always playful and that, you know, a cheerful little kid. Used to bump off school a lot. Her and me other sister would always find a derelict house and sort of like, you know, pretend that it was theirs, put furniture in it. Where they got the furniture from is beyond me, but they’d put curtains up and pretend that was their little house.” 


From family members’ accounts she was known to have loved animals and dreamed of becoming a vet. An ambition that would not be realised as she was continually skipping school. She was also described by a family member as being someone who found it difficult to socialise with other members of her own age group and was initially thought to be a bit of a loner.


Sadly, her dreams of working with animals shifted further away when she found herself married with two children at the age of 18. Although she was a good mother to her son, her relationship with her daughter was strained and the daughter eventually went to live with the grandmother. This broke Rosie’s heart and her slow descent into the oblivion provided by alcohol abuse began, and eventually, her marriage broke up.


Rosie had a regular income, in that, she was in receipt of state benefits, and she had her own, council owned flat. She was known by the drinking crowd as a friendly lady. Rosie had remained close with her ex-husband, despite their separation. He visited Rosie in July of 2009, and found about ten, maybe more, of the Ipswich drinking community inside her flat. When he wanted to ask them to leave, Rosie had assured him that everything was okay.


Within the crowd, some of the people had accommodation and access to money. The others quickly latched on and imposed on them. In Rosie’s case, they definitely used her for what she had to offer. It would seem that at some stage the drinking group, which was dominated by Paul Clarke, had begun using Rosie’s flat as a drinking den, forcing her to cook for them and even going so far as to controlling what Rosie spent her money on. When Paul Clarke spoke, everyone backed off. Police later established that Paul and Rosie may have dated for a while, but the exact nature of their relationship was never officially confirmed. 


Paul was dominant and ruthless. He also encouraged Lorraine Thorpe to start drinking at a young age. She was no longer taking her ADHD medication and introducing alcohol, was dangerous for her adolescent mind. But it was okay by Paul, so no one dared say anything. Des never said anything and it was just the way it was… Lorraine saw herself as Paul’s sidekick and felt untouchable. For the first time since her family broke up, she felt cared for – Paul had her back.


The only person who didn’t seem to be phased by Paul Clarke’s dictatorship, was Rosie Hunt. Always the caregiver, she immediately recognised that the streets of Ipswich was an unsuitable environment for a young schoolgirl like Lorraine Thorpe. Rosie tried to help her as best she could, and they became good friends. Lorraine always had a place to crash at Rosie’s, and Rosie protected her when she tried to hide from the group or even from authorities. Rosie was of the intention to inform Ipswich Social Services about Lorraine’s circumstances, but if she ever had the chance to actually do so in unclear. 


One blissful Sunday afternoon in early August 2009, Rosie’s peace was disturbed when the crowd poured into her apartment. She knew better than to fight it but felt that she needed to get out. So it came that Rosie took Paul Clarke’s Pitbull/Staffy mix for a walk into Ipswich town centre. The dog, like its owner, was aggressive and unruly lunged at a toddler. Eyewitness accounts vary, but it was alleged that Rosie either yanked the dog chain or kicked the dog in an attempt to stop it from biting the child.


With many eyes and ears on the street – the incident was related to Paul Clarke that same night. Rosie was tipped off that Paul knew she had kicked his dog and was afraid of what might happen to her. Fearing for her safety and too afraid to return to her own flat where everyone was still drinking, Rosie went to stay with Des Thorpe, Lorraine Thorpe’s father. At the time, De stayed in an apartment on Limerick Close, about 1.8 miles from her place.


Lorraine Thorpe found Rosie there and convinced her that everything was okay, and Paul wasn’t angry – he understood she did what had to be done in the situation. Lorraine put Rosie at ease and said that it was okay to return home. She could even go with her and visit Paul at his flat in Mountbatten Court and see for herself. Rosie, who loved animals and would never harm one, was relieved that Paul had faith in her. The story had been blown out of proportion, and Rosie knew in her heart of hearts she saved the child and did not hurt the dog. She then left with Lorraine. 


In the week that followed, no one saw Rosie around. It was only on the morning of Sunday August 9th when her neighbour reported a concern for Rosalyn’s welfare to police. Police forced their way into her flat and found her badly bruised and battered body in the bedroom.


News of Rosie’s death spread like wildfire through the streets of Ipswich. Everyone was talking about it and it was hard to believe that she was gone. Rosie was one of the kindest, most generous people, and the general feeling was that she was taken too soon. But as discussions about her death floated around, on the same day her body was discovered, both Paul Clarke and young Lorraine Thorpe were heard bragging to friends about how they had killed Rosie. This was unacceptable – and Rosie’s friends were furious.


When Des Thorpe overheard his daughter and Paul boasting and laughing about torturing and killing Rosie, he lost it and threatened to go to the police. However, his friends knew he would never turn his daughter in, and thought he just wanted to scare them. Besides, Des, crippled by his alcohol abuse, could barely walk to the toilet, let alone report a crime. This moment of clarity and attempted parenting from Des was sadly too little, too late. Lorraine had already lost all respect for him and found a new father-figure in Paul.


In the early hours of Monday 10 August 2009, the owner of the flat on Limerick Close returned where Des had been staying, returned to find the lifeless body of Desmond Thorpe lying on his couch. The owner immediately he called emergency services. Paramedics were at the scene within minutes, but there was nothing they could to for Des. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and police were called out.


First responding officers noted that Des had blood around his mouth and many other injuries. Because of alcoholism, they could not exclude the possibility that he had died due to natural causes. But the fact that Des died one day after one of his friends turned up dead, immediately made investigators suspicious. 


It didn’t take police long to learn about the talk on the street: that Paul Clarke and Lorraine Thorpe were going around telling everyone that they had killed Rosie and that Des had threatened to report them to police. So, on morning of Monday 10 August 2009, Paul Clarke was located on a street nearby, arrested and taken to Ipswich police station. Lorraine Thorpe was traced to her mother’s address in town and was also arrested.


Both Lorraine and Paul were interviewed under caution by Ipswich police. Lorraine denied any involvement in her father’s death. Her behaviour was erratic and she giggled while she was being questioned. To police it was clear that she did not grasp or respect the seriousness of her situation. During her interview Lorraine let something slip… She said:


“You’ll find my footprint on my dad.”


And that they did. On Des’s forehead was a print, made by a sneaker – Lorraine’s sneaker. Pressure marks from teeth on the inside of his lips consistent with an excessive external pressure being applied. Punch and kick marks on various parts of his body, indicated that Des had been severely beaten. 15-year-old Lorraine was already boasting about killing Rosie Hunt to friends. But surely, she could not have murdered her own father in such a brutal fashion… She loved him and gave up her life to look after him…


On searching outside the premises of Des’s flat, crime scene officers found a pillow that had blood stains on it. The blood was later confirmed to be that of Desmond Thorpe. He had been suffocated.


Meanwhile, Rosie’s autopsy revealed the horrors of her last days alive. From police evidence and the coroner’s report it was established the Rosie had been systematically tortured over a period of days. The official cause of death was deemed to be blunt force trauma.


As the pieces of the puzzle came together, investigators were able to construct a timeline of events, leading up to Rosie and Des’s deaths. Firstly, Rosie was right to be afraid of Paul after the incident with his dog. He was furious and felt Rosie shouldn’t get away with wrangling his dog. He sent Lorraine to Des’s place, to smooth things over with Rosie and lure her into a trap. Goodhearted Rosie was relieved that Paul was supposedly NOT mad at her. She trusted Lorraine, who had become like a daughter to her. She left Des’s place with Lorraine, and was a lamb to the slaughter…


In the days that followed, Rosie was held against her will at Paul’s council housing unit in Mountbatten Court. Paul unleashed his full rage onto Rosie, while Lorraine was an all-too-willing participant. By some accounts, Lorraine even enjoyed hurting her friend. The torture Rosie suffered was unthinkable… They sliced the left side of her face with a cheese grater, then rubbed table salt into the raw wounds. She was severely kicked, punched and slapped, with injuries mainly inflicted onto her torso. To make his point about Rosie being rough with his dog, Paul used a dog chain and hit her repeatedly. In the end, Rosie had nine broken ribs, a broken hyoid bone, multiple strangulation marks and it was evident that her hair had been set on fire. 


Witnesses told police that they heard Paul and Lorraine bragging about the mental torture they inflicted as well. Rosie was threatened with an electric fan which had had its guard removed – and they moved it within clipping distance of her face. She was also forced to get into a suitcase which was then zipped up for an undisclosed period of time. 


On the afternoon of Tuesday 04 August 2009, as witnessed by neighbours, both Paul Clarke and Lorraine Thorpe walked Rosalyn back to her flat at 87 Victoria Street where the abuse continued. Having heard the commotion a neighbour called the police. On arrival, the police knocked on the door, however as there was no reply they left. 


It was later determined that Rosie was probably still alive when the officers called at her place. But she was badly injured, mutilated and most likely unable to move or call out. She must have been so desperate for help, and when they left, all hope was lost… This police blunder became a contentious issue and action was taken against the officers responsible. Had they persisted, who knows… They may have been able to save Rosie.  


Around the 4th of August, the exact date is unknown, Lorraine and Paul left the small apartment on Victoria Street and then later returned with some sleeping pills, and forced Rosalyn to swallow it. Their plan was to make Rosie’s death look like suicide. But she had so many injuries, how they thought they’d get away with it, is anyone’s guess.


On the morning of 09 August 2009, a week after Rosie was last seen, a neighbour who had noted a massing of flies on a window of her flat, called the police. When police attended and forced entry, they found Rosie’s body on a mattress in her bedroom, seemingly assaulted and with early signs of decomposition.


The next morning, police heard of yet another death – this time of Lorraine Thorpe’s own father. Des did not suffer the same, prolonged degree of torture as Rosie. But his was by far not a swift and painless death either. He was kicked, punched, stamped on and finally suffocated. He was physically frail and would not have been able to defend himself against the unforgiving onslaught. 


Both Paul and Lorraine were subsequently charged with two accounts of murder: that of Roselyn Hunt and Desmond Thorpe.


Investigators brought in social workers to help them in figuring out the relationship between Paul and Lorraine. If it was in any way romantic, Paul had more charges coming his way, seeing as Lorraine was only a minor. However, both of them vehemently denied ever having a physical relationship, and there was no evidence to prove otherwise. However, their relationship was a close one, they spent all their time together and wreaked havoc.


The trial that had the country’s attention commenced in July 2010. Paul Clarke and Lorraine Thorpe both pleaded not guilty on both accounts of murder. Because they had both regularly been present at both crime scenes, previous to the murder, therefore forensic evidence was of little use and in this case the best evidence rule was obtained from witnesses. 


John Grimwood was a local resident of Ipswich, and his extended family still lived in the local area. But at an early edge he had fallen into the world drugs and alcohol. His reputation preceded him somewhat and the group of drinkers were wary of him as he had a tendency towards violence. John was present at both of the addresses leading up to the murders and afterwards too. Police have statements from witnesses stating that John also committed acts of violence against Rosie during her ordeal.


During the course of seven weeks the jury were required to consider the best evidence from drug addicts, alcoholics and people with personality disorders, making for a difficult case to prove. 


Throughout the trial Lorraine Thorpe was observed to be continually laughing and joking with Paul Clarke. She was noted to be looking around the courtroom and smiling at people with intermittent bursts of giggling. Because of her ADHD, the judge allowed frequent breaks, and the trial struggled to gain momentum.


Only once the case was presented in court, did the public learn just how violent and sadistic Paul and Lorraine had been. As the trial progressed the details of the assaults and murders of Rosie and Des were described to a horrified court room and the level of violence depicted shocked the public gallery.


Lorraine did not give evidence at the trial and in fact denied being at either of the addresses or present during the murders. But one witness testified to hearing both Lorraine and Paul shouting at Rosie:


“We’re going to kill you; we’re going to kill you.”


The defence offered by Graham Charles Parkins QC, was that Paul was angry because Rosie had reportedly kicked his dog. However, there was no proof that Rosie actually kicked the dog. She was known to love animals and given the situation, she probably only tried to keep the dog away from the toddler. 


Psychologists believed the motive for killing Rosie was far greater. The prosecution, Patricia Lynch QC, proposed that the attack had occurred because Rosie was going to report her concerns about Lorraine to Child Welfare and it was fear of this and the possible ending of Paul and Lorraine’s relationship (whatever that was) that in fact motivated the pair to murder Rosalyn and Desmond. 


To demonstrate this possible motive, the court was provided with evidence that the police had attended Rosie’s property on Wednesday 17 June 2009 looking for Lorraine. Paul Clarke was said to be very annoyed that the police even knew that Lorraine had been staying with Rosie, and blamed Rosie for telling social services where Lorraine was. Lorraine had been briefly taken into care at this point, however, she quickly absconded yet again. 


With regards to Des, both Lorraine and Paul claimed that – being drunk – he must have choked on his own vomit whilst sleeping. But medical evidence was provided to the court that support the fact that Des was eventually smothered. And the pillow with his blood on that was discarded outside his flat, was most likely used to suffocate him.


Throughout the trial, Paul Clarke showed no remorse, and insisted he never killed anyone. Then he even tried to pin it all on Lorraine, but no one bought it. They both played their part: Lorraine was not intimidated or forced by Clarke, but he was not influenced by her either. Admitting to his role to some degree, he finally said that Lorraine had instigated the attack. People were shocked to learn about Lorraine’s ruthless behaviour, but everyone knew that Paul was just as guilty as she was. 


Mitigating circumstances existed with Lorraine, in that she had previously be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms of which should have been controlled by her medication, which she had stopped previously stopped taking. The result of not taking prescribe medication would have had the effect of increasing the outward symptoms, irritability, lack of attention, inability to think clearly.


“She was responsible for protracted kicking, punching, and stamping on Rosalyn, who was not fit to defend herself effectively from the outset. Far from being sorry, Lorraine appears to have gloried in it, describing to her friends at one stage how she stamped on Rosalyn’s head.” 


When referring to Des’s death Judge Saunders stated that 


“The only possible explanation can be the fear that he would go and tell the police what happened to Rosalyn Hunt. I don’t accept that [Lorraine Thorpe] was entirely under the control of Mr. Clarke. She is someone who can be quite stubborn and wilful and is capable of being highly manipulative herself. Her story is an appalling one.”


The Jury retired for 17 hours and came back with four guilty verdicts. Paul Clarke was found

guilty of the murders of Rosalyn Hunt and Desmond Thorpe; as was Lorraine Thorpe. John Grimwood was found not guilty on both counts. At the time, Lorraine Thorpe was Britain’s youngest female double murderer.


Unfortunately, this sordid story does not end here… To police, there was no doubt whatsoever, that John had been present and involved in the torture and murder of Rosalyn. However, was eventually acquitted of all charges, due to a lack of evidence.


John very quickly established himself back into the street drinking community of Ipswich and despite having been cleared of the crime, he boasted of his knowledge and involvement in the murder of both Rosie and Des. With Paul Clarke in prison, someone needed to take the position of the top dog – and John felt that position was reserved for him. 


Within one year after his release, John murdered his then girlfriend and attempted to stab one of her friends to death. John had been abusing his partner, Alison Studd for months. One day, an argument about tobacco caused him to crawl underneath the kitchen table and cut her leg. He severed a main artery and Alison realised she was in trouble. She left the apartment and collapsed on the street. She died later in hospital, due to blood loss.  


Grimwood was found guilty this time and is currently imprisoned in HMP Whitemoor Maximum Security Prison, together with Lorraine Thorpe.


Paul Clarke imploded in prison and decided to take his own life. His body was found in his cell at Whitemoor, with a ligature around his neck on September 1st 2014. He had only served five years of his prison sentence.


Lorraine Thorpe will be eligible for parole on the 9th of March 2024 – she will still be in her twenties, her life ahead of her. However, the judge made it clear that she would only be released if she is deemed to pose NO danger to society.


The million-dollar question is: could these murders have been prevented? Who knows? Paul Clarke was a ticking time bomb – fuelling his aggressive and dangerous nature with alcohol abuse. Perhaps he would have snapped killed Rosie, or someone else even, whether Lorraine was by his side or not. 


As for Lorraine… She had no control in her life, ever. In torturing Rosie, and then killing her father, she was finally in control. Sadly, hers is a sad story, of a neglected child, who needed love, and instead got a life of delinquency, handed to her in a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. 


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