Peter Sutcliffe: The Yorkshire Ripper
Women feared for their lives until a routine police stop ended his reign of terror.
“In this truck is a man whose latent genius, if unleashed, would rock the nation, whose dynamic energy would overpower those around him. Better let him sleep?”
Sutcliffe’s handwritten sign placed on the windscreen of his lorry
On 2 June 1946, in Bingley, Yorkshire, John and Kathleen had their first child, Peter William Sutcliffe. Peter was later joined by another five siblings.
“Growing up with Peter…he was a really nice guy. He being so much older than me, he was more like a father figure as my dad was never around. He was either working or out at the pub or doing sports events. And Pete used to teach me things that a father should really, so he was a great big brother.”
Their father John was very jealous and constantly accused Kathleen of sleeping around. Hypocritically, it was in fact John who was having the affairs. John was a big, burly, sporty and sociable man. His eldest Peter was small, shy and introverted.
Peter stayed close to his mother.
Peter hated school. He found it hard to make friends and was often bullied. Once, unable to take anymore, he hid from school for a fortnight. When his parents and school realised the reason, they stopped the bullying.
As a teenager, Peter bulked up through bodybuilding. He dropped out of school aged just fifteen. Some of his first jobs were unusual.
“While not specifically conducive to their criminal pursuits, some jobs held by serial killers are consistent with their morbid psychologies. Peter Sutcliffe...for example, found employment in a mortuary.”
Harold Schechter The Serial Killer Files
Schechter adds Sutcliffe ‘enjoyed toying with the corpses-arranging them in grotesque poses and using them as ventriloquist dummies.’
Another job Peter did was grave digging. He liked to play ‘morbid pranks’ with the skeletons and was seen stealing the jewellery of the dead. In his spare time, Peter visited a waxwork museum. His favourite section displayed the ‘devastating symptoms of advanced venereal disease.’
Aged 20, Peter was still a virgin. In 1966 he met Sonia Szurma, the daughter of Czech immigrants. In August 1974, he married Sonia, the only woman he’d ever dated.
Due to his erratic employment, the newlyweds were financially forced to move in with Sonia’s parents. Unknown to them, Peter was spending his spare money on prostitutes.
Together with a friend, Trevor Birdsall, he’d cruise Yorkshire’s red-light areas.
In June 1975, he got his HGV licence. His lorry-driving job allowed him to come and go when he pleased.
WHAT TRIGGERED THE RIPPER?
One theory is that a bad experience with a prostitute led to Sutcliffe’s violent hatred of sex-workers.
Another is that in trying to reconcile the loving mother he had idealised with the sluttish adulteress his father had portrayed her as, Peter followed the same sexist stereotyping evidenced in many male dominated cultures:
Each woman was either a pure Virgin Mother worthy of a sacred love;
or they were a sinful whore.
And if they were the latter, they were less than a human and killing would be more the eradication of an infestation than of murder. As he later stated;
“I were just cleaning the streets.”
Over the next savage five years, Peter Sutcliffe would murder thirteen women and viciously attack seven others.
During this period, he was a devoted husband and seemingly ordinary guy.
“How can you do that and then come and have Sunday dinner with your mum, and smile and laugh and just act like nothing’s happened?”
Carl Sutcliffe, Peter’s brother
Another theory is that Sutcliffe was reacting to Sonia’s many miscarriages.
Peter desperately wanted to be a father.
Then in 1975, 29-year-old Peter was told that his Sonia would never have children.
It’s noteworthy that Peter often mutilated the stomach and torso area of his victims. Was he unconsciously acting out the belief that if his wife couldn’t have children, nor should others?
Soon after being told he would never be a father, Peter made his first attack.
Three quarters of a century after Jack the Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe took up his vengeful attacks on prostitutes.
He would go onto kill more than twice as many victims as his Victorian forerunner.
“...there isn’t a lot of torture in these cases and in the main they are relatively quick, what we call blitz attacks, extremely violent and extremely sudden blitz attacks, without actually an awful lot of sexual behaviour accompanied in them.”
Professor Laurence Alison, Forensic Psychologist
Sutcliffe’s first known attack occurs in the early hours of 4 July 1975 in Keighly. Anna Patricia Rogulskyj is a good-looking divorcee. After an argument with her boyfriend, she has come back to his house. It’s around 1:30 in the morning. But as she bangs on his door, it becomes obvious he’s not in.
As she considers her options, Sutcliffe sneaks up behind Anna. He employs what will become his signature. He first disables her by beating her round the head with a ball-peen hammer. Once she’s stunned to the ground, he lifts up her skirt and goes to work on her with a knife. She is mercifully unconscious as he slashes and mutilates her genitalia and stomach.
Then Anna’s neighbour disturbs him. The dark covers the scene and Sutcliffe manages to reassure the man that all is well. As soon as he leaves, Sutcliffe slinks away.
A passerby sees her. She’s rushed to casualty. Doctors work on her for twelve hours. She’s read the last rites.
But Anna survives.
Six other women would survive Sutcliffe’s attacks. Some would be told they were lucky to be alive. Left physically and emotionally scarred and forever changed, not all would agree.
Anna spends the next 33 years alone, behind a barricade of bars, wires and alarms.
After the Anna attack, Sutcliffe returned to his sleeping wife and awoke the next day ready to look for work.
Over a month later, on Friday 15 August, Sutcliffe drives his friend Birdsall to Halifax for a few drinks. His eyes lock onto 46-year-old Olive Smelt. The married mother of two is out with her girlfriends for her regular Friday night drinks. Her husband is home doing the childminding.
She goes home before midnight. Sutcliffe follows with Birdsall in the car. He leaves his friend and intercepts her in an alleyway. Before smashing her with a hammer he says,
“Weather’s letting us down isn’t it?”
Stunned and grounded, he then slashes at her backside with his knife. But an approaching car prevents him finishing. He returns to Birdsall.
Olive never returns to normal.
In September Peter starts regular work as a delivery driver.
His third attack is also in August. She will be his youngest victim.
On a warm summer’s evening, 27 August 1975, 14-year-old, Tracy Browne is walking to her home in Silsden village. An unassuming Sutcliffe walks past her. He dawdles until she catches him up. Pretending to be a local, he walks by her side for over 30 minutes. Then, just before her home, he pulls out his hammer.
She remembers him grunting from the force of the blows.
“To this day, I can hear those ugly grunts. But amazingly, I never lost consciousness throughout it all.”
The headlights of an approaching car disturb him and save Tracy.
So, so far the harlot hating Sutcliffe has managed to attack a divorcee, a married mother of two and a schoolgirl.
On the evening of 29 October Wilomena McCann, or Wilma to her friends, a 28-year-old Scottish mother of four, is drinking heavily. After closing time, she tries to hitch home.
Sutcliffe picks her up.
He dumps her sexually assaulted and mutilated body close to her home.
At 5am, two of her daughters are found sitting nearby at a bus stop. They’re waiting for their mum.
During the 1970s, the British economy reels from global shocks.
Many families struggle.
Emily Jackson and her husband, Sydney, are close to losing their family home. They’ve agreed she needs to prostitute herself. They’re desperate that their three children don’t realise how much trouble their roofing business is in.
Emily now uses the company van to service clients in the streets and car parks of Leeds.
But on Tuesday night, 20 January 1976, she gets into the Sutcliffe’s car.
Sutcliffe stabs her over 50 times with a screwdriver. Once she’s dead, still enraged, he stamps on her leg.
Sutcliffe’s attacks start to wear him out. He finds it hard to wake up for work. And on 5 March 1976, he’s fired from his delivery job.
It’s 4am on the morning of 9 May 1976. A prostitute, 20-year-old Marcella Claxton, walks home from a party in Chapeltown. Sutcliffe picks her up and takes her to a field. As she urinates, he hammers her head twice. She’s conscious as he stands over her bleeding body masturbating. Finished, he places a £5 note in her hand and warns her not to call the police.
She calls an ambulance.
She has 52 stitches. Her wounds heal but she never recovers.
That October, Sutcliffe secures regular lorry driving work.
Irene Richardson is a 28-year-old prostitute. Like most in her profession, she knows someone is preying on them. But also like most in her profession, she has no choice. She’s close to homeless and so broke that her two children are with foster parents.
Sutcliffe smashes her skull so severely it penetrates her brain.
His savage stabbing disembowels her.
He covers her body with her coat.
After Irene’s death, the press nickname the killer, ‘The Yorkshire Ripper’. But a prostitute killer isn’t considered of general public interest. Media attention soon moves on.
Patricia Atkinson likes to be called Tina and likes to drink. The divorced mother of three is a prostitute who only works from her flat. As all the attacks have taken place outside, she feels safe as she lets Sutcliffe in.
He hammers the back of her head. This time, he can’t be disturbed. This time, he uses a chisel. He stabs her six times.
On 26 April, 16-year-old shop assistant, Jayne MacDonald, having missed her bus and having failed to find a taxi, is walking home past a playground.
Sutcliffe delivers three quick blows to her head. He drags her onto waste ground. He then repeatedly stabs her to death.
“Prior to that point, the fear, if you like, had been exclusively felt by working prostitutes. But from Jayne McDonald on there was this feeling that no woman was safe.”
Henry Matthews, Former Journalist
“My own sisters used to walk around with knives in their bag, in their handbags although they were probably the safest people on the planet from the Yorkshire Ripper. But they had no idea that it was our brother Peter.”
The public panic has little effect on Sutcliffe. In the early hours of 10 July, it’s only a barking dog that interrupts Sutcliffe and stops him from ending the life of Maureen Long.
On 1 October, Sutcliffe makes a serious error. He pays Jean Jordan with a brand new £5 note from his pay packet. After killing her, he hides her body. Only later does he realise how incriminating the new bank note could be. He waits a week and after driving guests home from a housewarming party, he returns to the body.
Her handbag is missing. Furious and frustrated, he slashes at her decomposing body, creating 8-inch deep post mortem wounds.
“...to try and persuade the police that this was not a Ripper killing; he tried to cut off Jean Jordan’s head.”
Henry Matthews, Former Journalist
But his hacksaw can’t cut through and he leaves, now frightened as well as frustrated.
On 14 December he agrees a price with Marilyn Moore. But his first hammer blow doesn’t stun her and her screams set off a dog barking.
Patched up at hospital, but still penniless and despite having a hole in her head from the ‘Ripper’, she soon returns to prostitution.
Sutcliffe kills Yvonne Pearson on 21 January 1978. Her body lies undiscovered until March.
Ten days later, he hammers 18-year-old Helen Rytka to the ground. He has sex with her as she bleeds. He then stabs her through her lungs and heart.
Her twin sister is also a prostitute. She fears the police and doesn’t report Helen missing for another two days.
After a ten-week lull, Sutcliffe meets 41-year-old Vera Millward, a Spanish born mother of seven. Vera’s in pain after an operation and has popped out for painkillers. Sutcliffe slashes her stomach so severely that she is disembowelled.
Her screams are heard by a father and son visiting the hospital. They ignore them.
The 11 following months of inactivity are because of Sutcliffe’s mother’s declining health. She dies from heart disease on 8 November 1978.
On Wednesday 4 April 1979, Sutcliffe ends his grieving period. Bank clerk Josephine Walker is returning at midnight from visiting her grandparents. He hammers her twice, and then stabs her 25 times.
On 1 September 1979, Bradford student Barbara Leach dies instantly from the first hammer blow. He dumps her stabbed body under a carpet.
Police interview Sutcliffe so many times that work mates nickname him ‘The Ripper’.
They are shocked and in disbelief when their colleague, who they always thought of as being a loving husband tells them he’s having an affair.
Sutcliffe admits he’s being leading a double life with a lady in Glasgow.
In April 1980, Sutcliffe is arrested.
But it is for drinking and driving.
His public affair threatens his marriage and his drink driving threatens his livelihood. Things are starting to unravel for Sutcliffe.
Civil servant, Marguerite Walls, is working late on the evening of 20 August 1980. She walks home along well-lit streets. She screams as Sutcliffe hammers her. Having forgotten his knife, he’s forced to strangle her.
His next two victims survive. His first is in September and is on a visiting Singaporean doctor, Upadhya Bandara
Unlike Tracy Browne, however, 16-year-old Theresa Sykes doesn’t find her youth a defence or time a healer. She and her family are never the same again after her November attack.
On a wet Monday, 17 November, Leeds student Jacqueline Hill passes Sutcliffe eating in Kentucky Fried Chicken. He had sat there when Upadhya Bandara passed by. He left and followed Jacqueline. She is very nearly home when he attacks.
He drags her behind some bushes and stabs and stabs. Even her eye is mutilated.
On Friday 2 January 1981 Sutcliffe picks up mother of two Olivia Reivers. By this stage, he’s incapable of being aroused without having first attacked the woman.
This time, he will not get the chance.
“I think the temptation is to look at some of these guys as something particularly horrific or something particularly unusual but the reality is quite often they’re from a long line of particularly uninteresting, inadequate people...the reality is if they were more bizarre or strange then they would stand out and would have come to the attention of the authorities a lot earlier.”
Laurence Alison, Forensic Psychologist
The police investigation into the attack on Anna Rogulskyj soon winds down. With no money or rape, the motive is unclear. With all the usual suspects such as the boyfriend cleared, the only lead was the neighbour’s vague description of a five foot eight man in his late twenties. The only distinct detail is that the attacker wore a check sports jacket.
When Olive Smelt is attacked, the same process repeats itself. It will take three years for the police to identify Olive’s attacker as the Ripper.
As Tracy Browne walked with Sutcliffe for over 30 minutes, she’s able to give a very accurate description to the police.
“I even mentioned the gap between his teeth and his insipid voice – a little man with a high-pitched voice.”
The ID picture appears in the papers. It’s such a good likeness that Sutcliffe jokes to his mother-in-law about the resemblance. The police never connect this attack with those of the Yorkshire Ripper.
The Wilma McCann murder inquiry is headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Dennis Hoban. His pathologist tells him that Wilma was struck twice on the back of the head. She was then stabbed on her front 15 times. Traces of semen are found. It’s the first forensic evidence. As Wilma had been seen trying to hitch lifts from lorry drivers, 6,000 are interviewed. A further 7,000 are processed, including householders along her route home, associates, friends and family. It amounts to nothing.
‘murder by person or persons unknown.’
The coroner verdict of Wilma McCann.
At 8am on 21 January 1976, Emily Jackson’s mutilated body is found. On top of her stab wounds, there is an imprint of a Wellington boot on her leg. Checks reveal it’s a size 7 Dunlop Warwick Wellington boot.
Because she was so mutilated, Detective Chief Superintendent Hoban connects Wilma’s murder with Emily’s.
Marcella Claxton, like Wilma McCann was hit over the head with a hammer. She is also able to give Hoban some key details about her attacker namely that he is bearded.
But she is a prostitute and she is black. In 1976, that means there is little sympathy from the public and scant political pressure on the police to track down her assailant.
Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Hobson replaces Hoban. He sees his first ‘Ripper’ victim on 6 February 1977. Irene Richardson’s intestines have spilled onto the street.
Vaginal swabs indicate sexual activity by the assailant. He had masturbated over his victim, rather than raping her.
Tyre tracks nearby offer hope. But laborious hand checking of every possible vehicle reveals 100,000 possible matches.
Patricia Atkinson had last been seen out on Saturday 23 April 1977. Inside her flat, next to her battered and bloodied body, is a size 7 Dunlop Warwick boot print.
The murder in June of Jayne MacDonald, an ‘innocent’, brings the press and public down in full force on the police. Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield is now in charge. The investigation is run from the Milgarth station in the centre of Leeds.
The task is monumental. Police process through punch cards, paper statements and transfer everything in longhand.
“I would say we were sort of still not quite in the bronze age with regards to paper but that’s how we worked....there was something up to 4 tonnes of paperwork held at Millgarth police station which caused the floors to creak and of course that had to be reinforced. But there was no other system.”
Andrew Laptew, Detective Constable
The largest manhunt in British history is gearing up.
Police will question Sutcliffe nine times. Every time, the police will accept his alibi.
Maureen Long should be dead from the injuries she sustains on 10 July 1977. Assistant Chief Constable Oldfield pleads to speak to her before surgery. She gives a brief description of a white 35-year-old man.
After her operation, she remembers nothing.
But a night watchman tells police he saw a white car with black roof leaving the scene. This is Sutcliffe’s car. But the guard wrongly says it’s a Ford Cortina Mark II. This is the favoured model of thousands of taxi drivers. One taxi driver is placed under 24-hour surveillance. Meanwhile, over 300 police interview nearly 200,000 people.
At the end of August, Sutcliffe replaces his white Corsair car with a red one.
“When the murders broke in Manchester we thought well, he’s spreading his territory, his hunting ground. And there was a fear that, where’s it gonna end, where’s he gonna extend these boundaries? Really, you couldn’t predict where it was going to be.”
Andrew Laptew, Detective Constable
On 15 October, the police find Manchester mum of two Jean Jordan’s missing handbag. They also find the hidden compartment where she’d secreted Sutcliffe’s £5 note. Exhaustive investigations narrow potential interviewees down to 8,000 men. They interview Sutcliffe at home. Sutcliffe calmly convinces them he was home the night of Jean’s murder. On the later date, when her body was nearly decapitated, he says he had a housewarming party. His wife confirms his alibis.
Another survivor of Sutcliffe, Marilyn Moore, gives police a now familiar description of a white, bearded thirty-something man. Tyre tracks match those at the scene of Irene Richardson.
Yvonne Pearson’s body is only discovered in March, two months after her murder. As Sutcliffe had been disturbed, he hadn’t stabbed her. Police aren’t sure to connect her to the Ripper victims.
A police dog discovers her body on 3 February 1978. The hammer and stab wounds are frighteningly familiar.
At 8:10am on Wednesday 17 May, the mutilated body of Vera Millward is found. Tyre tracks nearby match those found at Marilyn and Irene’s crime scenes.
Police are stumped as to why the killings stop for the next 11 months.
The hammer and stab wounds on Josephine Whitaker confirm the return of ‘The Ripper’ in April 1979.
On 16 April, Oldfield announces a new lead. Letters sent to him claiming to be from the Ripper postmarked Sunderland, have forensic matches to previous cases. Despite the predictions in the letters having been wrong as often as they’re right, Oldfield is convinced of their authenticity when an audiotape later arrives.
“I’m Jack. I see you are still having no luck catching me. I have the greatest respect for you George but Lord, you are no nearer catching me now than four years ago when I started.”
Experts say it’s a Wearside accent and the speaker becomes known as “Wearside Jack”. Police attention is diverted wholly to the search for this person. When the voice is played at a press conference, 50,000 calls are made to the police. It is the last thing an investigation buried in paperwork needs.
The voice taunts Oldfield. He becomes obsessed by finding that voice.
“…what you often get in police investigations that are of this magnitude is what psychologists call confirmation bias, where a certain piece of information looks quite attractive and when you have that attractive information and you want to solve the case and you want it to end. Your mind tends to fixate on that piece of information and fail to question it, fail to consider alternatives and fail to look at all the reasons why that information is not helpful to you.”
Laurence Alison, Forensic Psychologist
Police interview 40,000 suspects and a £1million publicity campaign launches. Wearside Jack’s letters are reproduced on posters and billboards.
On 29 July 1979, police visit Sutcliffe about his vehicle being in the red light districts of Manchester, Leeds and Bradford.
But Sutcliffe’s handwriting doesn’t match ‘Jack’’s and his softly spoken accent isn’t Geordie. And crucially, the police interviewing him aren’t aware that he’s been spoken to four times before. One of those times was to do with the ‘£5 note’ inquiry.
Despite being unaware of all of this, Detective Constable Andrew Laptew is deeply suspicious of Sutcliffe. He compiles a report and takes it to a senior officer. The officer dresses Laptew down for ignoring the lack of accent match and the insistence on matching photo fits.
Sutcliffe is again discounted.
This is one of the nine times that Sutcliffe is interviewed before being arrested.
Three more women will die after Laptew’s report on Sutcliffe.
The stress takes down Oldfield who suffers several heart attacks and is hospitalised.
Police officers become objects of derision for their inability to get their man.
“You know, you’d go for a drink somewhere to your local and they’d ridicule you.”
Andrew Laptew, Detective Constable
On 2 September 1979 the body of another victim is found. Barbara Leach isn’t a prostitute, she’s a student. Vigilante groups now patrol the streets.
The police publicity campaign reminds people to be on the lookout for men with a Geordie accent.
Finally, a new computer programme is used to track the registration numbers of vehicles sighted near the attacks. But if anything, it just adds to the information overload.
Police narrow down the list of suspects who received the new £5 note found in Jean Jordan’s handbag to just 300. Sutcliffe is on this list, has a beard, a gap in his teeth and his car has repeatedly been seen in red light districts.
But Sutcliffe’s wife provides him with alibis and he doesn’t have a Geordie accent.
Because Sutcliffe strangles Marguerite Walls in August 1980, she isn’t initially included as a Ripper victim.
Dr Bandara Upadhya is walking the suburban streets on 24 September when she’s attacked. A neighbour comes out because of the noise and the doctor lives. Despite being hammered and describing the attacker as having a beard, police don’t connect her attack.
Theresa Syke’s boyfriend hears the screams and is watching through the window of their home as the hammer goes through her skull. He shoots out and Sutcliffe speeds off. Police again don’t connect her attack.
Jacqueline Hill’s handbag is found by another student. He takes it home and shows it to his flatmate who, remarkably, is an ex-Hong Kong policeman. Seeing that nothing has been stolen and there’s blood on it, he calls the police. Again, police are reluctant to call Jacqueline a Ripper victim.
When they do, middle England erupts. Feminist marches demand curfews for men. Panic and paranoia spreads and thousands of anonymous letters are sent to the police naming hundreds and hundreds of suspects.
Sutcliffe’s cruising partner, Trevor Birdsall informs on him. He recounts a night in 1969 when Sutcliffe had returned from a prostitute saying he’d tried to kill her with a brick in a sock. Only the tearing of the sock had saved her.
The constable he tells it to files the report. It is just yet more paperwork being fed into the system.
The investigation is now out of control. Oldfield is replaced by Jim Hobson. He tells police not to discount suspects based on their accent.
Finally, Sutcliffe is caught by simple, solid policing.
Olivia, out of all the women Sutcliffe encounters, can be counted as lucky. When police see her in a car with another man, they pull up.
It’s Friday 2 January 1981. Sergeant Robert Ring is on routine patrol with a colleague. He sees a woman in a car with a man and suspects a prostitute and client encounter. Olivia tells Sergeant Ring that the man in her car is her boyfriend. Ring thinks he remembers her for prostitution offences. Sutcliffe says his name is Peter Williams. He adds he’s desperate for the toilet. Ring allows him to go behind a storage tank.
The police find the car’s license plates are false. And Peter admits so is the name he has given. He says he’s really Peter Sutcliffe. He’s detained overnight. Police notice Sutcliffe’s physical similarity to the Ripper profile. His blood test shows he’s blood group B, one of few the indisputable forensic details and relatively rare in the general population.
Sergeant Ring returns to the scene of his arrest. Sutcliffe hadn’t emptied his bladder. He’d emptied his pockets of a ball-peen hammer and a knife.
Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, though not officially on the case, is invited to witness the unfolding events.
On Sunday 4 January, Sutcliffe confesses. The Yorkshire Ripper calmly gives a 15 hour statement recounting his crimes. He claims that back when he was a 20-year-old gravedigger, the voice of God had commanded he kill prostitutes
Finally, after confessing all, he requests to be allowed to inform his wife of his actions.
The following exchange occurred between them at Dewsbury police station.
Sonia: “What on earth is going on, Peter?”
Sutcliffe: “It’s me, I’m the Yorkshire Ripper. I killed all those women.”
Sonia: “What on earth did you do that for Peter?”
The police press conference is called at 9pm. The euphoria of the police is barely disguised.
Only the press questions on whether the killer has a Geordie accent dampens their elation.
On Monday 5 January 1981, Sutcliffe appears at Dewsbury Magistrates Court.
After explaining his prostitute killing as following God given orders, police are satisfied that Sutcliffe was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and should be incarcerated in a secure mental institution.
A judge decides, however, that Sutcliffe will face trial. He wants to give a jury the right to decide whether Sutcliffe is insane.
His brother Carl visits him in jail and like Sonia, just wants to know why his brother has caused so much pain and suffering. Peter Sutcliffe’s replies;
“Oh, just cleaning up our kid, just cleaning up.”
MAD OR BAD
Four months after confessing, Sutcliffe’s trial commences on 29 April 1981. It lasts a fortnight. His detailed confession and plea of insanity mean the jury are instructed to determine his mental state, rather than his guilt or innocence.
Throughout it all, Sutcliffe shows no emotion.
“He came up from the cells in the morning, took his seat in the dock just as though he were arriving in the office for work.”
Henry Matthews, Former Journalist
On 22 May 1981, after six hours of deliberation, the jury give a majority verdict of 10-2 finding him sane. They find Sutcliffe guilty of thirteen counts of murder and the attempted murder of seven others.
The judge sentences Sutcliffe to life for each murder and recommends a minimum tariff of thirty years.
Following Sutcliffe’s sentence Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Lawrence Byford, was charged with investigating the conduct of West Yorkshire Police during the Ripper Inquiry. His report was a devastating indictment.
It transformed police investigations and resulted in the setting up of HOLMES, the first major inquiry computer programme.
Jailed in 1981 Sutcliffe was initially sent to HMP Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight. He was attacked by another inmate. It will not be the last time this happens.
Prison psychiatrists diagnose Sutcliffe as insane. He was transferred to Broadmoor secure hospital in 1984.
He was visited there by West Yorkshire’s Chief Constable, Keith Hellawell. He asked about many other cases, including that of Tracy Browne.
Eleven years after being jailed Sutcliffe confessed to attacking two others, one of whom was Tracy Browne.
In 1997, Sutcliffe was stabbed in both eyes with a pen by another Broadmoor patient, Ian Kay. Emergency surgery saved the sight in the right one. He was left blinded in the left.
Despite his lack of popularity amongst fellow inmates, Sutcliffe reportedly receives considerable fan mail from female admirers.
Sonia, his wife, however, remarried and changed her surname.
On 20 October 2005, ‘Wearside Jack’ finally faced justice. A former security guard, John Humble, was arrested and charged with perverting the course of justice. He had sent two letters and a tape recording that led to the hunt for the Ripper hoaxer, “Wearside Jack”. More sophisticated DNA profiling enabled experts to match his DNA from a motoring offence to saliva taken from one of the envelopes containing the hoax letter sent in 1978.
In March 2006, Humble was jailed for eight years at Leeds Crown Court.
The tape recording was in fact done in a red brick council semi by the 23-year-old labourer as a prank. When they took his tapes seriously John Humble twice tried to convince detectives that it was a hoax. But the more he pleaded, the more convinced they were that the tapes were genuine.
The changes in public sympathy for the plight of prostitutes and of police treatment of them were evident over the 2006 serial murders of five women. The fact that they were prostitutes was pertinent, but it didn’t mean the police were under any less pressure to find their man. And within two months, they did.
Such advances in public and policing sensitivity are probably little consolation to the many, many victims of Peter Sutcliffe:
“I don’t have mam to see every time I want to see her...I wish she was here. Always have done.”
Neil Jackson, Son of Emily Jackson (the Ripper’s second murder victim)
FROM ANNA TO JACQUELINE
In 2008, after thirty three years of living in fear, Anna Rogulski, Sutcliffe’s first surviving victim, finally found peace and died in hospital.
His second surviving victim was reduced to a shadow of her former self. Her daughter had a nervous breakdown.
His youngest victim, Tracy Browne, without counselling, rebuilt her life and refuses to let Sutcliffe affect her future. It seems her youth helped her.
“I was still growing up when the attack happened. I was young, resilient and with a teenage-type determination to put it all behind me...I am now a survivor, not a victim.”
The father of one of Sutcliffe’s last murder victims, Jayne MacDonald was not so able to put things behind him. Two years after her death, it is said he died of a broken heart.
Sutcliffe set out to ‘clean’ the streets of prostitutes. Instead, he destroyed the lives of students, civil servants, housewives and mothers. And on top of that, he created an impact in many families from which they would never recover. The family of his last victim, Jacqueline Hill tried to sue the police over their incompetent investigation of the Ripper attacks and killings.
Their court case was unsuccessful.
The Courts did, however, reject a 2010 appeal by Sutcliffe against his whole life tariff. They confirmed that Sutcliffe would serve a whole life tariff and never be released from imprisonment.
Also that year, the murder of Joan Harrison was conclusively linked to another man. Forensics from her case had helped convince Oldfield of the authenticity of the ‘Wearside Jack’ letters and tapes.
In November 2012 it was reported that the 66-year-old Sutcliffe believed he would soon be on day release. He was also said to have defended the paedophile Jimmy Savile and boasted of the number of visitors and pen pals he had.
His reading of their letters is more difficult because of being stabbed and blinded in his left eye.
It is also claimed that Sutcliffe is now a Jehovah’s Witness.
Some bizarre urban myths have sprung up about the serial killer. Leeds University students have been known to tell a story based on the fact that he liked to eat at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Headingley. They say the Ripper was arrested there when staff recognised him from the photo fit issued by the police. They told Sutcliffe that he was their millionth customer and must stay while they presented him with his prize. Instead, they rang the police who arrested him.
Like all such myths, the grain of truth in it helps it to persist.
In July 2013, John Humble, the man behind the ‘Wearside Jack’ tapes spoke publicly for the first time. He said it started “as a prank – just a bit of fun.”
It was revealed that the hoax had lead to him trying to take his own life three times.
2 June 1946
30 October 1975: Wilma McCann, 28, Leeds
20 January 1976: Emily Jackson, 42, Leeds
5 February 1977: Irene Richardson, 28, Leeds
23 April 1977: Patricia Atkinson, 32, Bradford
26 June 1977: Jayne MacDonald, 16, Leeds
1 October 1977: Jean Jordan, 20, Manchester
21 January 1978: Yvonne Pearson, 21, Bradford
31 January 1978: Helen Rytka, 18, Huddersfield
16 May 1978: Vera Millward, 40, Manchester
4 April 1979: Josephine Whitaker, 19, Halifax
2 September 1979: Barbara Leach, 20, Bradford
20 August 1980: Marguerite Walls, 47, Leeds
17 November 1980: Jacqueline Hill, 20, Leeds
2 January 1981
5 May 1981
22 May 1981