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Within a few weeks the summer rush will have begun on Jones Beach, a barrier island linked to Long Island that boasts the most popular beaches on the east coast of the US. Some six million sun lovers will descend along this mile stretch of sand, paddling in the Atlantic, working on their tans, munching on burgers and fried onions in a pleasure-seeking exodus from the heat of New York city. This week though, the narrow spit of land exuded a very different impression.

It was shrouded in thick sea fog under which cordons of men and women dressed in space-aged silver body suits were battling their way through the thick scrubland flanking Ocean Parkway, which runs along the island. They were some of the police officers now scouring the area inch by painful inch, assisted by cadaver dogs, horses and fire engines whose hydraulic ladders have been extended above the head-high brush to give an aerial view.

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On Tuesday, their grisly search bore fruit with the discovery of a set of bones and a skull — the remains it is thought of two human beings. The new finds — the third set of human remains discovered on the island since December — bring the of victims of what is assumed to be a serial killer, or killers, operating in the New York region to It's all very startling," the local police department said. The dawning realisation that a serial killer was at work began a year ago when a prostitute called Shannan Gilbert went missing following a job in Oak Beach, a gated community a few miles east of the current search.

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She was last seen before dawn on 1 May, knocking on a stranger's door and screaming: "Help me! He's trying to kill me!

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Gilbert has been missing ever since, but the ongoing search for her led the police to their present manhunt. In December, a detective looking for Gilbert stumbled on the first of four bodies found near Gilgo Beach on the eastern end of the island.

They were each laid above the ground, wrapped in burlap or hessian about metres apart. The murders dated from as long ago as July to as recently as September. The bodies were so badly decomposed it took a month to identify them, at which point similarities became clear.

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They were all women in their twenties, and all worked as prostitutes using cheap hotels in nearby towns for business. There was a further common denominator.

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They had all found clients through the website Craigslist — as had Shannon Gilbert on the night she disappeared. When the search d earlier this month after the snow had thawed, a further four bodies were found about a mile away from the first set.

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The second group of remains had been killed longer ago and were set further back from the road. Identifications of the new remains, including this week's finds, are still pending, but a profile of the likely killer has started to emerge.

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Joseph Pollini, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay college in New York and a former New York police detective, said statistically he was likely to be white and male, as are most serial killers. The way he dumped the bodies suggests he was comfortable working in the area and probably lived locally.

He chose a very straight stretch of road along the beach which would have allowed him to see cars coming from long distances because of the lights. The use of such tricks has detectives thinking that they may be dealing with a killer well-versed in covering his tracks.

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The New York Times reported that the suspected murderer had made a string of taunting calls to his victims' relatives, and had used techniques to disguise his movements that were so sophisticated they raised the possibility he might even be a police officer or other law enforcement official. Pollini added that the killer's apparent use of Craigslist to find the first four victims was also ificant.

Prostitutes increasingly advertise their services via internet sites, allowing them to cut out the middle man or pimp thus increasing their personal income, but also increasing their exposure to risk as a result.

They aren't integrating a third person for their protection, which makes them more vulnerable and makes it harder for police to track down violent punters as there is no pimp to identify the punter," he said.

Networks of women working as prostitutes say that the full picture is more complicated. Rachel West of the US PROStitutes Collective said it was too easy to blame Craigslist for violence against sex workers, when a far more pressing factor was the criminalisation of their trade. Women are afraid to come forward and report violence against themselves for fear they'll be arrested or deported if they are undocumented immigrants.

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Violent men know that and target prostitutes because of it. The trend is borne out by the tragic statistics.

If the current spate of murders proves to be the work of a serial killer it would be the third such predator who targeted women working as prostitutes on Long Island over the past two decades. InJoel Rifkin confessed to killing 17 women; in Robert Shulman was convicted of killing five prostitutes. Infour women working as prostitutes were murdered in a suspected unsolved serial killing in Atlantic City in neighbouring New Jersey, and other multiple killings of sex workers have been recorded in states across the US. Vivian, a woman operating in the New York region, said that the grim discoveries on Long Island had spread fear among her fellow sex workers.

She said the women she mingled with were all taking extra precautions to vet new clients to make sure they were safe.

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She would not go into details of the precise methods, but said the main one was only to take new clients through trusted recommendation. Vivian said that apart from fear, the prevalent emotion in the wake of the Long Island killings was anger. What other group is so marginalised simply for taking up a profession?

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New York. This article is more than 10 years old.

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of victims reaches 10 as police comb scrubland Criminalisation, not Craigslistto blame, say sex workers. Police hunting a suspected serial killer use a bucket lift to help comb an area of Long Island where they found parts of two more bodies.

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Topics New York Sex work Craigslist news. Reuse this content.

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