On Friday, 2 January 1981 the Yorkshire Ripper’s five-year reign of terror came to an end. In the previous five years, beginning in July 1975 with his first attack, he had killed thirteen women and left seven others for dead. The seven survivors were told how lucky they were, but with physical, emotional and psychological scars that would never completely heal, they didn’t feel very lucky. Some would even believe that they would have been better off if the man they had known for so long as The Ripper, had succeeded in killing them. As the nation celebrated the final triumph of good over evil, the Yorkshire Ripper’s family sat stunned. It was incomprehensible to them that the Peter William Sutcliffe that they knew and loved could possibly be responsible for the heinous crimes of the Yorkshire Ripper.
Peter William Sutcliffe was the first-born son of John and Kathleen Sutcliffe. He was born in Bingley, an industrial county of Yorkshire , England , on 2 June 1946 weighing only 5lb, but healthy in every way. As they took him home from the hospital, both parents were confidant that their son would grow to be like his father, a burly man who loved to play and watch any type of sport and an extrovert who loved a drink at the local pub. John looked forward to the day that he and his son would share the manly pleasures of life, but Peter would not grow to be a man’s man like his father. He was a quiet, shy boy who much preferred to stay indoors with his mother than join in the rough games of his younger brothers and sisters, choosing to read rather than play sport. Greatly intimidated by his father’s aggressive masculinity, he found a safe haven in his mother, a gentle loving woman who adored all six of her children.
At school, which he always hated, Peter did not attempt to integrate with the other children. He would spend each play hour standing alone in a safe corner, away from the other children, avoiding the rough games from which he, being small and not particularly strong, invariably came out the worse for wear. His father’s concern for his son during his primary years led him to visit Peter at the school each afternoon, hoping to encourage his son to join in with the other children, but to no avail. The move to Secondary School was no better for Peter. He became the subject of severe bullying, culminating in his truancy from school for two weeks, before his parents were informed of his absence. He had spent the two weeks hiding in the upstairs loft, reading comics and books by torchlight. Although the bullying stopped after the school took action, Peter, who never fought with other boys or chased after the girls, was seen as different, set apart from the rest.
In the last years of secondary school, Peter attempted to fit in with the other boys and overcome the stigma of outcast he had been given in his younger years. He took up bodybuilding and was soon, to his father’s great delight, able to beat both of his brothers at arm wrestling. While still showing no sign of interest in girls, he would learn to play some sports in order to fit in, but his fear of leaving a mark or bringing attention to himself would cause him to never excel in any area of his schooling. He left school at the age of fifteen with no clear focus of what he wanted to do with his life. Over the next two years, Peter would change jobs regularly. He started in the mill where his father worked, but within a few weeks left to begin an engineering apprenticeship, which he quit after only nine months. His next job was as a labourer in a factory, but again, after only a short time, he quit to work as a gravedigger at the Bingley Cemetery .
Peter continued to be devoted to his mother all through his teen years and would happily run errands for her and spend a great deal of time with her. Things were not so good with his father who, Peter felt, spent far too much time away from the family home with sport and socialising, an issue that Peter had always resented. For John Sutcliffe, his greatest concerns about his son were allayed by the time Peter celebrated his eighteenth birthday. Although he never did share his father’s love of sport, he had taken up bodybuilding and other manly pursuits, including a passion for riding and repairing motorbikes. The only other concern was that Peter still showed no interest in girls, and had never had a girlfriend.
In his twentieth year, while with friends at the Royal Standard, a hotel in Manningham Lane , Peter deliberately approached a girl for the first time. Her name was Sonia Szurma, the second daughter of Maria and Bodhan Szurma, immigrants from Czechoslovakia , now living in Bradford . Polish-born Bodhan, a physical education teacher and university lecturer in Czechoslovakia , was not happy with his daughter’s choice at first, but in time he would come to see Peter as a hard working man who was careful with money, and most importantly, who treated his daughter well. Sonia held hopes of becoming a teacher when she met Peter, and although they would not marry for another eight years, the intention to marry had always been an unspoken expectation for the couple.
In the eyes of John and Kathleen Sutcliffe, Peter had grown up to be the ideal son. As far as they could tell, his only flaw was his work record, which was tainted by his habitual lateness, and eventually cost him his job at the cemetery, after which he held a number of labouring positions. By April 1973, this final problem seemed to be cured, when he began his first really steady job doing permanent night shift at the Brittania Works of Anderton International. In 1974, the family pressure for Peter and Sonia to marry had finally convinced him that they should do so, even if they hadn’t yet saved for a deposit on a house and Sonia had not been able to complete her teaching degree, because of a schizophrenic episode during the second year into her course. With the decision that they would live together with Sonia’s parents, they married on 10 August, Sonia’s 24 th birthday.
Sonia & Peter on wedding day
Peter had succeeded in creating a public persona that was exemplary, described by many as hard working and quiet, a caring and loving husband who kept to himself with no outward signs of the violence and depravity he had hidden deep within him. There were very few who had ever seen the other side of Peter. Gary Jackson, who had worked with Peter at the cemetery, had found his pleasure in playing morbid pranks with the skeletons and the theft of rings from the hands of some of those he buried, to be more than a little macabre. His brother-in-law, Robin Holland, would often go out drinking with Peter in the red-light districts of Yorkshire where Peter would often brag about his exploits with the prostitutes in the area. While at home, he would continue to play the part of family saint who would make grand stands about the immorality of men who two-timed their wives. Eventually, Peter’s hypocrisy became too much for Robin and he refused to go out with him any more. Trevor Birdsall had become friends with Peter at about the same time as he met Sonia and would eventually report to police his suspicions that Peter Sutcliffe was the Yorkshire Ripper. Trevor and Peter would spend hundreds of hours over the next few years in pubs and cruising the streets of the red-light districts in Peter’s succession of cars. Peter had seemed to have a liking for prostitutes, mixed with a strange anger. Trevor remembered vividly a night in Bradford in 1969, when Peter had left him in the car for a few minutes. When he returned, Peter told him that he had tried to hit a prostitute with a brick he had put inside a sock, but the sock had fallen apart and the brick had fallen out. Despite his strange behaviour, Trevor would remain friends with Peter until his arrest in 1981.
Six months after his marriage to Sonia, Peter Sutcliffe took the opportunity of a £400 pound redundancy package. He used the money to acquire his licence to drive large trucks. On 4 June 1975, two days after his twenty-ninth birthday, he passed the HGV test Class 1 and then bought himself a white Ford Corsair with a black roof, while keeping his first car, a lime-green Ford Capri GT. During the following month, Peter was to tell friends and family of the sad news of Sonia’s many miscarriages. Soon after the latest miscarriage, Peter and Sonia were informed that Sonia would not be able to have the children that they had both wanted so much.
It was not long after this that Peter made his first reported attack. Anna Patricia Rogulskyj lived in Keighly. The slim attractive blonde in her early thirties had been divorced from her Ukrainian husband for two years. On the night of 4 July 1975, she and boyfriend Jeff Hughes, whom she expected to marry in the near future, had had a fight. Still angry, she had left him to go out drinking with friends at a club in Bradford . Her two Jamaican friends dropped her outside of her home at 1:00 am, where she expected to find her boyfriend. He wasn’t there. Her earlier anger with him soon resurfaced and she decided to walk across town to his house, to finally sort things out. As she fruitlessly banged upon the door, Peter Sutcliffe stood in the shadows watching. Finally, in frustration, she removed one of her shoes and broke the glass of a downstairs window.
As she knelt to put her shoe back on, Peter quickly emerged from the shadows and struck her a savage blow to her head. Anna had not seen or heard anything and was unconscious as he dealt her another two blows with his hammer. Peter paused momentarily to catch his breath as the blood from Anna’s wounds seeped across the cobblestones. He lifted her skirt and pulled down her underpants. As he returned the hammer to his pocket and took out a knife, his anger, under control until now, found expression with each slashing cut across her stomach.
Site where Rogulskyj was attacked
The voice of a concerned neighbour, disturbed by the noise, quickly quelled the frenzied outpouring of Peter’s rage. As the neighbour stood peering out into the alley, trying to focus in the poor light, Peter Sutcliffe pulled himself together and spoke calmly as he reassured the man that all was well and to go back inside, which he did. Peter straightened Anna’s clothing and was gone as quickly as he had come.
After Peter returned home to his sleeping wife to continue his life as usual, Anna was found and rushed to the casualty department of Airedale hospital. From there she was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary for an emergency operation that lasted twelve hours. At one point, she was read the last rites. Miraculously, she survived but, unlike Peter, her life would never be the same after that night. She returned to her home where she would live alone with her five cats, barricaded behind a network of wires and alarms. She is terrified of strangers and rarely goes out. When she does, she walks in the middle of the street, as she is afraid of the shadows and terrified of people approaching her from behind. There is no boyfriend now, and no prospects of marriage. The £15,000 she received from the Criminal Compensation Board cannot buy back her life. She wishes that she had died that night.
The police were mystified by the attack, which appeared to have no motive. No money was stolen and it had not been a sexual attack. Her boyfriend and all of her friends had been cleared and there were no further leads apart from a vague description, given by the neighbour, of a man in his late twenties or early thirties, about five-foot-eight and wearing a check sports coat.
During the next month, while Peter looked for work as a driver, Sonia decided to complete her teacher training and enrolled at the Margaret McMillan College in Bradford . On Friday 15 August, Peter drove his friend Trevor Birdsall to Halifax where they drank in a number of pubs. It was in one of these pubs that Peter had first seen Mrs. Olive Smelt.
Forty-six-year-old Olive had followed her usual Friday night pattern of meeting her girlfriends for a drink in Halifax , while her husband Harry stayed at home with their 15-year-old-daughter Julie and 9-year-old-son Stephen. Two men known well by the women, gave them all a lift home. Olive was dropped in Boothtown Road , a short walk from her home.
At the same time, Peter left Trevor alone in his car. As Olive took a short cut through an alleyway at 11:45 pm, Peter walked up behind her and overtook her. The last thing Olive could remember was Peter saying, “Weather’s letting us down isn’t it?” before he dealt her a heavy blow to the back of her head. He hit her again as she fell to the ground then slashed at her back with his knife just above her buttocks. He was again prevented from completing his task. A car was quickly approaching, so Peter left Olive and returned to the car where Trevor was waiting. A mere ten minutes had passed.
Olive could not recall how she came to be found some yards down the road, moaning and calling for help. Neighbours took her to their home where they called an ambulance and sent someone to inform Harry. She was initially rushed to Halifax Infirmary and then to Leeds infirmary, where she spent ten days. Once again, Peter had left another woman’s life in pieces. Olive would continue to suffer from severe depression and memory loss. For months, she would wish that she were dead as the repercussions of the attack took hold of her life. She was continually depressed and took no interest in her life. She lived in fear, especially of men, and would sometimes look at her husband and wonder, hadn’t he been a police suspect? Their relationship was permanently altered and she rarely felt like having sex. Her past enjoyment of home making and cooking was lost and she now completed these tasks in robotic fashion. Her oldest daughter suffered a nervous breakdown, which doctors were sure was a direct result of the attack, and for many years, her son would continue to lock the door whenever he left his mother alone in the house.
Despite the similarities between the two apparently motiveless attacks upon Anna Rogulskyj and Olive Smelt, police would not link them for some time. It would be three years before they would confirm that the attacker was in fact the Yorkshire Ripper.
On 29 September 1975, Peter Sutcliffe began working as a delivery driver for a tyre company. Exactly one month later, he would succeed in killing his first victim and his reign of terror would begin.
Wilomena McCann, who preferred to be known as Wilma, was a fiery, Scottish 28-year-old, and a mother of four. Her body was found on the morning of 30 October 1975 lying face upwards on a sloping grass embankment of the Prince Phillip Playing Fields, off Scott Hall Road, just 100 yards from her council home in nearby Scott Hall Avenue.
Wilma had never settled into the mundane life of a wife and mother, much preferring the excitement of the nightlife in the many Leeds hotels. On the night of her death, she had left her four children in the care of her eldest daughter, 9-year-old Sonje, to go out drinking. She was to drink heavily until closing time at 10:30 pm and then make her way home. Along the way, a lorry driver stopped when Wilma flagged him down, but continued on his way when he was greeted with a mixture of incoherent instructions and abuse, leaving her by the side of the road. She was seen at about 1:30 am being picked up by a West Indian man, who was the second last person to see her alive. Soon after 5:00 am, a neighbour found Wilma’s two oldest daughters huddled together at the bus stop. They were cold, confused and frightened. Their mummy hadn’t come home the night before and they were waiting in the hope that she would come home by bus.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dennis Hoban was in charge of the inquiry. When Professor Gee, the pathologist, completed his report, Hoban learned that Wilma had been struck twice on the back of the head, and then stabbed in the neck, chest and abdomen fifteen times. There were traces of semen found on the back of her trousers and underpants. By the time the coroner’s verdict of “murder by person or person’s unknown” had been handed down, the one hundred and fifty police officers that Hoban had working on the case had interviewed seven thousand householders and six thousand lorry drivers. They had taken hundreds of statements from anyone with even the remotest connection to Wilma, each one painstakingly checked, but still they had not even come close to finding her killer.
On 20 November 1975, 26-year-old Joan Harrison’s dead body was found in a garage in Preston, Lancashire . She had been hit over the back of the head with the heel of a shoe and then kicked severely until she was dead. Before leaving her, the killer had dragged her to a more secluded part of the garage where he pulled her trousers back on and pulled her bra down to cover her breasts. Placing the boot he had removed earlier in between her thighs, he then removed her coat and covered her with it. He took her handbag and dumped it in a refuse bin, after removing all its contents. The killer was to leave a number of clues for the police. The first was a deep bite mark above her breast, which revealed that the killer had a gap between his front teeth. Tests on semen found in both her vagina and anus showed that the killer was what is known as a secretor, a person whose blood group information is secreted into their body fluids (approximately 80% of the population). The killer’s blood group was of the rare B group.
Joan Harrison, Victim
Initially, Joan Harrison’s murder was not linked to Wilma McCann’s as there were too many differences in the killer’s method. This decision would be altered when police were later to receive a number of letters from a man claiming to be the Yorkshire Ripper. He mentioned the murder in Preston , leading the police to incorrectly believe that Joan Harrison was also one of the Yorkshire Ripper’s victims.
In reality, Peter Sutcliffe, the mysterious and elusive Yorkshire Ripper, did not claim another life until January 1976. Emily Monica Jackson, 42, lived with her husband and three children in Back Green, Churwell on the outskirts of Morley, west of Leeds . The Jacksons had been having financial problems for some time when Emily decided to begin taking money for sexual favours. Together, Emily and husband Sydney would drive their blue Commer van into Leeds where Sydney would wait for his wife in one of the bars while Emily would use the van to earn the extra money they needed. On the night of Tuesday 20 January 1976, they parked their van in the carpark of the Gaiety and went inside. They had a drink together then Emily left to see whom she could find outside. Sydney was to wait there until she returned at closing time. When she wasn’t there to meet him, he took a taxi home, expecting her to follow in the van shortly after. But she never returned home.
Emily Jackson, Victim
Emily’s mutilated body was found just after 8:00 am the following morning only 800 yards from the Gaiety where her husband had waited for her. Peter Sutcliffe had left Emily lying on her back with her legs apart. She was still wearing her tights and pants, but her bra was pulled up, exposing her breasts. Like Wilma before her, Peter had struck Emily on the head twice with his hammer and then stabbed her lower neck, upper chest and lower abdomen 51 times with a sharpened “Phillips” head screwdriver. Peter’s need to vent his anger upon the already-dead Emily caused him to make a slip; he stomped on Emily’s right thigh, leaving the impression of the heavy-ribbed Wellington boot. The boot was further identified as a Dunlop Warwick, probably size 7, definitely no larger than an 8. Another print was found in the sand nearby.
Hoban knew immediately that the man who had killed Emily Jackson was the same man that had killed Wilma McCann. Sydney Jackson, devastated by the vicious and senseless murder of his wife, believed that the man would kill again and prayed that he would soon be caught. He wept for his wife and sent their children to stay with relatives until he could tell them the terrible news of their mother’s death.
On 5 March 1976, Peter Sutcliffe was fired from his job with the tyre company. Although he had been a good hard worker, Peter was constantly late for work. His late night forays into the red-light districts of Yorkshire made it difficult for him to arise early enough for work. It would take him many months of rejection and frustration before he could find work as a lorry driver because of his lack of experience.
In the same month, George Oldfield, Assistant Chief Constable at West Yorkshire Police Headquarters in Wakefield , received the first in a series of letters by a person claiming to be the Yorkshire Ripper. Oldfield quickly dismissed the letter, which claimed responsibility for the murder of Joan Harrison but showed no relation to the Ripper case, as just another one of the many crank letters he, and many newspapers, had already received.
As Marcella Claxton, a 20-year-old prostitute, walked home from a drinking party held by friends in Chapeltown around 4:00 am on the morning of 9 May 1976, a large white car pulled up along side her. She wasn’t working that night but she asked the driver for a lift. Instead of driving her home, he drove her to Soldier’s Field just off Roundhay Road . Peter offered Marcella 5 pounds to get out of the car and undress for sex on the grass, but she refused the offer. As they both got out of the car, Marcella heard a thud as something Peter had dropped hit the ground; he told her it was his wallet. Marcella then went behind a tree to urinate. Peter walked towards her and the next thing she felt was the blow of Peter’s hammer as he brought it down upon the back of her head, then she felt the second blow. She lay back on the grass, looking at the blood on her hand from where she had touched her head. Peter stood nearby. She remembered vividly that his hair and beard were black and crinkly and that he was masturbating as he watched her bleeding on the ground. He went back to the white car with the red upholstery to get some tissues to clean himself up. When he finished, he threw the tissues on the ground and placed a 5-pound note in Marcella’s hand, warning her not to call the police as he got back into his car.
Marcella, her clothes now covered in blood, managed to half walk, half crawl to a nearby telephone box where she called for an ambulance. As she sat on the floor and waited for help, she would see Peter drive past many times looking for her, probably to finish the job and rid himself of a vital witness.
The gaping wound in the back of her head required 52 stitches and a seven-day stay in hospital. For months after the attack she would hate men, barely able to even be in the same room with them. Even five years after the attack, she would still be plagued by depression and dizzy spells and be unable to hold down a job. The birth of her son Adrian coincided with Peter Sutcliffe’s arrest in 1981, but neither event could ease the ache she had felt since her attack. She too wished she had died.
The attacks of the Yorkshire Ripper were by now the main topic of conversation among prostitutes and the patrons of the many pubs in the Leeds area. With little information in the papers about the nature of the murders, the public soon added their own horrific details, which were incredibly similar to the notorious crimes of Jack the Ripper in the previous century. Prostitutes, in an attempt to protect themselves, were seen working in groups, making it very clear to their clients that the details of their car and registrations were being recorded. Increased police activity in the area put further pressure on the already strained relationship between the prostitutes and officers of the law, creating a formidable barrier to police investigations. The fact that the attacks on Anna Rogulskyj and Olive Smelt had not yet been linked with the other Yorkshire Ripper murders resulted in a complacency in the general population who seemed to view prostitutes as somehow deserving of the Yorkshire Ripper’s punishments.
During the summer of 1976, George Oldfield promoted Denis Hoban to the position of Deputy Head of the Force C.I.D. While honoured at the confidence shown in him by the appointment, he was disappointed that he would have to leave Leeds to work from the West Yorkshire Police Headquarters at Wakefield , nor was he happy to be desk-bound in his new position. Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Hobson replaced Hoban.
James Hobson and Chief Constable
In October 1976, Peter Sutcliffe came home to his wife with the good news that he had finally found work as a lorry driver. He was now working with T & WH Clark (Holdings Ltd) on the Canal Road Industrial Estate, between Shipley and Bradford.
Sutcliffe driving Clark lorry
It would be five months before Peter would kill again. Jim Hobson would head the investigation into this attack, as his predecessor, Hoban had done nine months earlier when Marcella Claxton had survived Peter’s last attack.
On Saturday 5 February, twenty-eight-year-old Irene Richardson left her rooming house in Cowper Street , Chapeltown at 11:30 pm to go to Tiffany’s Club. At the time of her attack, Irene would have thought that life couldn’t get any worse. Both of her daughters, aged four and five, were with foster parents. She had nowhere decent to live, and due to lack of money, had to walk the streets of Chapeltown to look for customers. When Peter Sutcliffe had finished with Irene, he had left her lying face down in Soldier’s Field, placing her coat over her inert and bloodied body. He had given her a massive fracture of the skull with the three blows he inflicted with his hammer. One of the blows had been so severe that a circular piece of her skull had actually penetrated her brain. He had stabbed her in the neck and throat, and three more times in the stomach, savage downward strokes so severe that they had caused her intestines to spill out.
When Hobson and the pathologist, Professor Gee, removed her coat, they found that while her bra was still in place, her skirt had been lifted up and her tights pulled off the right leg and down. One of the two pairs of pants she had been wearing had been removed and stuffed down her tights, while the other pair were still in place. Her calf-length brown boots had been removed and placed neatly over her thighs. A vaginal swab showed the presence of semen but it was considered to have been from sexual activity prior to the attack.
Near Irene’s body tyre tracks were discovered and recorded. They indicated that the killer had used a medium sized sedan or van. Checks with tyre manufacturers established that the vehicle had been fitted with two “India Autoway” tyres and a “Pnemant” brand on the rear offside, all of them cross-ply. With the assistance of tyre manufacturers a list of 26 possible car models was drawn up. It seemed that a genuine break had finally been made in the investigation, but Hobson’s elation would be short lived. Police officers, without the benefits of computerisation, had moved into local vehicle taxation offices each night to hand check all the vehicles in West Yorkshire compatible with the list. The final tally was 100,000 cars.
Irene Richardson’s body
Patricia Atkinson was living alone again after her divorce from Asian immigrant worker, Ray Mitra. After the birth of their three daughters, Judy, Jill and Lisa in quick succession, Ray would find his marriage to his wayward western wife to be more than he could handle. Patricia, who preferred to be known as Tina, was happy with the new arrangement as she was now free to drink and dance as often as she pleased. She operated as a prostitute from her small flat at number nine Oak Avenue in Bradford where she felt safe from the threat of the Ripper who killed his women outside. Being slim with dark-hair and always smartly dressed, she had no shortage of men friends.
On Saturday 23 April, she was seen by the caretaker of the building in which she lived, leaving her flat on her way to the busy red-light pubs where she was well known for her heavy drinking. She was seen in a number of the pubs that night, and at eleven p.m., several women working on the street had seen her walking, heading toward Church Street . It was soon after this that Peter Sutcliffe had met the now well-intoxicated Tina. Together they walked to his car, and then drove back to her flat. As they entered through her front door, Peter struck the back of her head with the same ball-pein hammer he had used on all of his previous victims. Before her unconscious body hit the floor, Peter struck her three more times.
As the blood poured from her wounds, Peter began to remove her overcoat. He then lifted her and carried her to the bedroom and threw her down on the bed. There he ripped open her black leather jacket and blue shirt. Pulling up her bra to reveal her breasts, he then pulled her jeans down to her ankles. With a chisel he had removed from his pocket, he began to stab at Tina’s exposed stomach. He turned her over and stabbed her in the back but had not penetrated the skin. Then he quickly turned her over again to stab her stomach again leaving a total of six stab wounds. Before he left her, Peter had pulled her jeans back up and, without realising it, he left a size 7 Dunlop Warwick wellington boot print on the bottom bed sheet.
As Peter’s activities as the notorious Yorkshire Ripper continued to escalate, his wife Sonia was approaching the end of her teacher training, she was confidant that she would pass before the coming summer. With the prospect of an increase in their income, Peter and Sonia began to see hope for the fulfilment of their dream to buy their own home. It would not be long before Sonia found the house of her dreams – number 6 Garden Lane , Bradford. Peter was not so sure it was his dream home when Sonia told him that the asking price was over £15,000. It was a lot of money and there was no guarantee that Sonia would get work straight away after the summer break, but he agreed to at least have a look at it. They went on a Saturday 25 June 1977.
On the same night, Peter went to Chapeltown, supposedly for a drink.
Jayne MacDonald also went out that Saturday night. Jayne was sixteen years old and had recently started her first job in the shoe department of a local supermarket. She was going out dancing and she was happy. She kissed her father good-bye before she left their home in Reginald Terrace, Chapeltown for the last time. After the dance, Jayne had gone with friends to buy chips in the city centre. As she gossiped with her friends the last bus home departed without her.
At 11:50 pm, she began walking home with Mark Jones, a young boy she had met earlier that night. He was to organise a lift home for her with his sister, but the sister wasn’t home when they got there. Jayne and Mark continued walking together, stopping for a brief kiss and cuddle, as far as the Florence Nightingale Public House. It was one thirty when they went their separate ways. At a kiosk near Dock Green Pub near the corner of Beckett Street , Jayne stopped at 1:45 am to call a taxi, but there was no answer. As she approached the playground, she did not see Peter Sutcliffe lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on her as she passed by.
Two children found her body at 9:45 am on Sunday 26 June near a wall inside the playground where Peter had dragged her. She was lying face down, her skirt was disarranged and her white halter-neck top was pulled up to expose her breasts. Peter had struck her three times on the back of the head with his hammer and then stabbed her repeatedly in the chest and once in the back.
From the moment Wilfred MacDonald, Jayne’s father, was told of his daughter’s murder by the two uniformed police officers who had come to his door that Sunday morning, he lost the will to live. He soon developed nervous asthma and could not work. Instead, he would sit for hours at a time thinking only of his daughter. It would take two years, but he finally died of a broken heart.
Assistant Chief Constable, George Oldfield was called soon after Jane’s body was found. He would now be overseeing all of the investigations into the Yorkshire Ripper murders and would work in the field with the officers already involved in the case.
Newspaper reports the following day, stating that an “innocent young woman has been slaughtered,” sadly reflected the underlying attitude of police and the public that prositutes who are murdered are not innocent, and somehow deserve whatever “punishment” that is meted out to them. Police were now inundated with information from the public. People who once were interested only in hearing the gory details of the attacks, now felt personally affronted and threatened by the man they called the Yorkshire Ripper. Where previously, witnesses were reluctant to admit any connection with the murdered prostitutes, people from the surrounding area were readily volunteering information to help the police in their attempts to catch Jayne’s killer.
Under the direction of Oldfield, police policy regarding the media was to become more open, working co-operatively to ensure that the public were kept informed of the facts that it needed while suppressing the release of information which would hinder police investigations. Oldfield personally visited members of every level of the community in an attempt to break down barriers to public/police co-operation. Officers involved in the investigation into the brutal murder of Jayne MacDonald interviewed residents in 679 homes in the immediate vicinity of the attack, over thirteen thousand interviews in total, with nearly 4000 statements taken. Despite all of these efforts, Peter Sutcliffe was able to continue to hide behind his mask of respectability and the Yorkshire Ripper continued his rampage.
Even while the police worked feverishly gathering information in relation to Jayne MacDonald’s murder, Peter Sutcliffe prepared to kill again. It was Saturday night 9 July 1977 when Peter left Sonia at home in Tanton Crescent with her parents. Driving the white Corsair with the black roof, he headed for Manningham Lane and the red-light Lumb Lane district of Bradford.
Maureen Long, at home in Farsley, near Leeds, also made preparations to spend Saturday night in Bradford . She spent the first part of the evening visiting various pubs in Bradford , including one where she met her estranged husband and made arrangements to spend the night at his home in Laisterdyke, Bradford. The rest of the evening was spent at Tiffany’s, in the Bali Hai discotheque, where she danced and drank until just after 2.00am.
Maureen Long, Victim
As she waited in the long queue at a nearby taxi rank to get a lift to her husband’s home, a white car pulled up. The driver, Peter Sutcliffe, offered her a lift. Peter drove Maureen to Bowling Back Lane where he struck her a massive blow to the back of the head. As she lay on the ground, he stabbed her in the abdomen and back. The barking of a dog nearby interrupted his frenzied attack and he left Maureen for dead as he fled the scene. His car was seen leaving the area by a nightwatchman who was working nearby, at 3:27 am. He described the car as a Ford Cortina Mark II, white with a black roof.
Two women living in a nearby caravan found Maureen the next morning. They had heard cries for help, went to investigate and found Maureen Long lying seriously injured on the ground. She should have been dead. The injuries she sustained would have killed most people, but somehow Maureen survived.
She was rushed to hospital in Bradford where she underwent emergency surgery. Later she was transferred to Leeds for major neurological surgery. Oldfield begged doctors for an opportunity to talk with Maureen before they commenced surgery. Maureen tried hard to recall as many details as she could. She remembered leaving Tiffany’s and the car that had stopped to give her a lift. The man, as she recalled, was white, with a large build, about thirty-five with light brown, shoulder-length hair; he would have been about six foot, with puffed cheeks and big hands. She wasn’t sure about the colour of the car, it was white or yellow, or blue. She would not remember anything when she came out of surgery.
It would be six weeks before Maureen could leave hospital, only to spend a further three weeks in a convalescent home, before returning home. All she had to live on was her thirteen-pound-a week social security payment. In 1978, she appeared in the Bradford Magistrates Court, charged with stealing from three shops in the city centre. She told the court that she was waiting for compensation for the attack, having only received £300. She was fined seventy-five pounds. In April 1979, the Criminal Compensation Board offered her £1500. She appealed. She was later awarded £1250 as an interim payment, while her case would be held under medical review. To help make ends meet, Maureen sometimes received payment for interviews about the attack.
While Maureen recuperated in hospital, the police investigation began. Detectives set up interview rooms at Tiffany’s nightclub in an attempt to glean as much information as they could from the patrons who had been there the week before. The investigation into the attack on Maureen Long would involve 304 officers working full-time. They interviewed 175,000 people, took 12,500 statements and checked 10,000 vehicles. The nightwatchman’s description of the killer’s car as a white Ford Cortina Mark II matched the thousands of cars used by taxi-drivers in the area.
Police had already contemplated the possibility of the killer being a taxi driver. He would have a good knowledge of the area, enabling him to know the best haunts for prostitutes and the quiet, secluded areas that he could take them to. They had started questioning taxi drivers after Tina Atkinson’s murder and now they increased that line of investigation. Most were quickly cleared, but one taxi driver, Terry Hawkshaw was not. The police were not completely satisfied with his explanations about his whereabouts on the nights of the murders. He lived alone with his mother in a central location to all of the killings. He was thirty-six years old and his appearance fitted the general description of the killer.
Terry Hawkshaw was placed under surveillance twenty-four hours a day. Police followed him as he drove his taxi and drank at local pubs. Armed with a search warrant, they entered his home, searching it from top to bottom, including dustbins and his uncle’s tool shed. They removed all of his clothing from his home, cut locks from his hair and took blood samples. They even took the carpets from his car.
He was taken in for questioning a number of times. On one such occasion, he was held from eight o’clock in the evening until eight o’clock the following morning. Meanwhile the real killer continued to elude police and drove freely through the streets of Yorkshire looking for his next quarry.
For Peter and Sonia Sutcliffe, life was really beginning to improve. On August 18 1977, they had exchanged contracts for the purchase of their lovely new home and Sonia began her first teaching position at Holmfield First School in Bradford two weeks later. Then on Monday 26, they moved into their home and Peter bought himself another second hand Ford Corsair, a red one to replace the white Corsair he had sold on 31 August.
The following Saturday, 1 October 1977, after spending the day working on his new car, he decided to take it out for a test drive. By 9:30 pm, Jean Bernadette Jordan was climbing into the car with him near her home in Moss Side, Manchester . Jean, born in Scotland , had moved to Manchester after running away from home at the age of sixteen. She had met Alan Royle on the day of her arrival and moved in with him. Two years later they had their first child, Alan. Two years after that, their second son James was born. Although they were still living together when she was murdered, they had mutually agreed to live separate lives.
Sutcliffe home in Bradford
Earlier on the evening of 1 October, as Jean poured Alan a glass of lemonade, he told her that he would be going out for the evening. He left her watching television but she was gone when he returned later. He assumed that she had decided to go out with her girlfriends who were also “on the game.” Instead she had taken Peter Sutcliffe to a quiet area of vacant land between allotments and the Southern Cemetery where she was to have sexual intercourse with him for £5. Before getting out of the car, she put the £5note in a hidden compartment of her handbag. Once out of the car, Peter used his hammer to hit Jean over the head a total of thirteen times. He then hid her body in undergrowth near the fence between the cemetery and the allotments.
Peter, now fully recovered from the burst of frenzied anger, calmly drove home across the Pennines to Sonia and his new house, and anxiously awaited the headlines that would announce his deed to the world. As he and Sonia planned the house-warming party to be held on Sunday evening, Peter began to worry about the £5 note he had given Jean. It was a brand new note and it may be possible to trace it back to him. By Sunday 9 October, there still had been no word of the discovery of Jean’s body in the papers. If he was at all troubled by the events of the week before, his party guests could not tell. It was almost midnight when Peter offered to take some of his relatives home in the red Corsair, while Sonia went to bed.
After dropping his guests at their homes, Peter did not immediately return to Garden Lane , instead he drove over the Pennines once again. He found Jean’s body exactly as he had left it, but her handbag was missing. As he searched the area, he became frantic at the prospect of the police finding the £5 note. When his frustration and fury was at its peak, he dragged the lifeless and already rotting body away from its hiding place. He tore Jean’s clothes from her body, and then stabbed her over and over again. Eighteen times he stabbed at her breasts, chest, stomach and vagina. They were fierce slashing swipes, some 8 inches deep. One extended from her left shoulder down to her right knee. When the rage subsided, he thought again of the £5 note, and attempted to cut off Jean’s head. His intention was to divert police attention by disposing of her head somewhere else. When he realised that it was an impossible task with the tools he had, he gave up and went home.
It hadn’t occurred to Alan to report Jean as missing. She had often just taken off from home without notice to visit relatives in Scotland , so he assumed that it was the same this time and that Jean would turn up in her own good time. It wasn’t until he read the report in the paper on the evening of 10 October that he became concerned. The report described the young woman, who had been found by a neighbour at midday, as having shoulder-length auburn hair and listed some of the clothing found. What the report didn’t say was that her blackened head was unrecognisable. It had been flattened with the severity of the many blows she had received. Her belly was gaping open and putrefaction was evident.
At the Manchester C.I.D. Headquarters, Alan showed Det. Chief Supt. Jack Ridgeway a recent photo of Jean, but it was impossible for Ridgeway to tell if it was the same woman that he had seen earlier that day. Reluctant to subject Alan to the sight of Jean’s mutilated body, Ridgeway suggested that there might be something in the house that would have Jean’s fingerprints on it. Alan immediately remembered the lemonade bottle that was still sitting where Jean had placed it over a week before. The prints on the bottle were a definite match with those of the corpse.
A friend of Jean’s, Anna Holt, had also gone to the police after reading the report in the paper. She insisted on seeing the body and positively identified her as Jean Jordan. Anna told police that Jean had only recently decided to give up “the game” and settle down with Alan and the children to lead a decent home life.
Alan was devastated by the tragedy and would lose his job as a chef because he found it impossible to concentrate on his work. Thoughts of Jean and how she died would constantly torment him. Their son Alan, considered a bright boy before his mother’s murder, was retarded by the trauma of the ensuing months. By his fifth year he was still only able to speak a few monosyllabic words.
On Saturday 15 October, Jean Jordan’s handbag was found only 100 yards from where her body had lain the week before. The money that Alan believed she’d been carrying was missing, but in a hidden pocket at the front of the bag, police found a five-pound Bank of England note. The note, with the serial number AW51 121565 was brand new, issued only a couple of days before Jean was killed. The Bank of England established that the note was part of a consignment sent to the Shipley and Bingley branches of the Midland Bank, right in the heart of the Yorkshire Ripper area.
Ridgeway was confidant that the Yorkshire Ripper could be found if they could trace the owner of the five-pound note. With this aim in mind, Ridgeway, along with thirty handpicked Manchester officers, travelled to Bradford and opened a special incident room at the Baildon School .
It was quickly established that the note in question had been part of a bundle of five hundred pounds and had been the fifth last note in a sequence of sixty-nine. Ridgeway’s excitement soon abated when he learned that the note had been part of a batch of £17,500 pounds, which had been distributed to a number of firms in the Bradford and Shipley area that employed almost 8,000 men in total.
It would take Ridgeway and his men three months to interview 5000 of those men. One of the firms they had concentrated on was T & WH Clark (Holdings Ltd) in Canal Road , Shipley. Just before Christmas, they interviewed the men that worked there, including Peter William Sutcliffe of Garden Lane , Heaton. There had been nothing about Peter, or the other 5000 men, that had seemed suspicious. They had even spoken to his wife, Sonia, who had not contradicted in any way Peter’s account of the nights they asked him about.
Even as the police were interviewing those 8000 men, one of them, the Yorkshire Ripper struck again, but this time he would leave his victim to provide a strong identification of him and his car. It had started on 14 December when Marilyn Moore left a friend’s home in Gathorne Terrace, near the Gaiety pub at 8.00pm. As she walked along Gipton Avenue towards her home, she noticed a dark coloured car drive slowly toward her. Sure that the driver was a potential client, she began to walk to Leopold Street where she assumed his car would next appear. Her assumption proved correct when she found his car parked near a junction known as Frankland Place . The driver was leaning against the driver’s door. He was about thirty, stocky build, around 5’6″ tall with dark, wavy hair and a beard. He was wearing a yellow shirt, a navy blue/black zip-up anorak and blue jeans, and appeared to be waving to someone in a nearby house.
Marilyn Moore, Victim
He asked her if she was “doing business” and they set a price before she got into the car with him. As he drove her to a vacant lot in Scott Hall Street , about a mile and a half away, he told her that his name was Dave and that the person he had been waving to was his girlfriend. When they arrived at their destination, “Dave” suggested that they have sex in the back seat, but when Marilyn got out of the car she found that the back door was locked. As “Dave” came behind her to open the door, Marilyn felt a searing, sickening blow on the top of her head. She screamed loudly and attempted to protect her head with her hands. As she fell to the ground, frantically grabbing her attacker’s trousers as she fell, she felt further blows before losing consciousness.
A dog barked at the sound of Marilyn’s screams and “Dave” left before he could finish “the job.” Marilyn remembered hearing him walk back to his car and slam the door, and then she heard the back wheels skid as he hurriedly drove away. Slowly, Marilyn managed to get herself to her feet and stumbled towards a telephone. Before she could, a man and woman, noticing the blood running from her head, stopped to help and called an ambulance.
She was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary for an emergency operation. She would stay there until just before New Year’s Eve, but it would be a long time before she could face returning to Leeds . Back in Leeds again where she returned to work as a prostitute, she continued to suffer from depression. She still has a hole in the back of her head and scars all over her scalp.
There was no doubt in the minds of the investigators that Marilyn was another of the Yorkshire Ripper’s victims. This was confirmed when the tyre tracks left by his car were found to match those found at the site of Irene Richardson’s death. Despite this new evidence, the hunt for the Ripper continued without success until the third week of January 1978, when Ridgeway pulled his team out of Bradford , knowing that they had probably met the killer and failed to recognised him.
By the end of January 1978, police were beginning to wonder whether the Ripper had been scared off by his unsuccessful attack on Marilyn Moore. What they did not know at the time was that he had in fact killed again on the night of 21 January, but the severely mutilated body of Yvonne Pearson would not be found until the end of March. Any hopes police may have had were soon put to an end in the first week in February, when another of the Yorkshire Ripper’s victims was found.
Helen and Rita Rytka were the twin daughters of an Italian mother and Jamaican father. At the age of eighteen, when Helen was killed, they lived together in a miserable room next to a motorway flyover in Huddersfield . Although they both worked as prostitutes, they had dreams of a much better life in the future. In the meantime they would continue to work the streets of Huddersfield red-light district as a pair. To ensure each other’s safety, Helen and Rita agreed that they would always take the car number of every client and meet back at an appointed time after twenty minutes, a system which had worked well for them until the snowy night of Tuesday 31 January 1978.
Helen Rytka, Victim
Helen came back to the rendezvous point five minutes earlier than Rita at 9.25pm. The opportunity to make an extra £5 before her sister returned was too good to miss, so Helen got into the car with Peter Sutcliffe. They drove to Garrard’s timber yard near the railway, a common haunt of prostitutes and their clients. Peter convinced her to get into the back seat, as she did so, Peter struck her with the hammer. He missed and hit the car door instead, alerting Helen to the danger she was in, but before she had a chance to scream he had hit her again. She immediately crumpled to the ground. It was then that Peter realised they were in full view of two taxi drivers who stood talking nearby. Taking Helen by the hair, he dragged her to the back of the woodyard. Still alive, Helen vainly attempted to protect herself from the hammer as Peter crashed it down onto her head again.
Scared that the taxi drivers would discover them, Peter lay on top of Helen and covered her mouth with his hand, then had sex with her as she lay bleeding. Finally, the taxi drivers left and Peter got up to find his hammer, which he had dropped. While he searched, Helen attempted to escape. As she ran from him, Peter hit her several more times on the back of her head. Still alive, Helen was dragged to the front of the car where Peter stabbed her through the heart and lungs with a kitchen knife he had hidden in his car.
Rita arrived back at the rendezvous point only five minutes after Helen had driven to her death. After waiting for some time in the freezing cold, she gave up and went home, assuming that Helen would be waiting for her there. Fear of the police prevented her from reporting Helen’s disappearance until Thursday. On Friday 3 February, a police Alsatian dog located Helen’s body where by Peter Sutcliffe had left her on the previous Tuesday.
On 10 March 1978, George Oldfield received another letter in which the writer claimed to be the Yorkshire Ripper, again it was post marked as being sent from Sunderland . The murder of Joan Harrison was again mentioned and he promised that the next victim would be old. Uncertainty about the validity of the letter increased when the body of Yvonne Pearson was found on 26 March 1978. If the letter had been from the murderer, why did he not mention Yvonne’s murder, which had occurred two months earlier? A fact that only the murderer could have known, unless of course, the Ripper had not really killed Yvonne.
She had been found on wasteland off Lumb Lane in Bradford by a passer-by who had noticed her arm sticking out from under an old sofa that had been dumped there long ago. The fact that she had been bludgeoned with a large blunt instrument, presumed to have been a rock, caused police to wonder. This was not the Ripper’s usual method, but many of the other characteristics of this murder were similar to the other deaths.
Yvonne Pearson, had left her two girls, aged two years and five months, in the care of a babysitter on the night of 21 January 1978, to see if she could earn some money. Her first stop that night had been the Flying Dutchman Pub, which she was seen leaving at 9:30 pm. Soon after that, Peter Sutcliffe invited her to get into his car to do “some business.” At the murder site, he hit her repeatedly on the head with a lump hammer. When she was dead, he hid her body under the sofa and jumped on her chest until her ribs had broken. Fear of discovery by people in the area had cut short his time with Yvonne and he had not stabbed her. A newspaper, dated one month after her death, was placed under her body leading police to believe that the killer had returned to the scene of the crime.
It would be another two months before Peter Sutcliffe would kill again. His next victim was 41-year-old Vera Millward, an older woman, just as the letter from the man calling himself the Yorkshire Ripper had promised.
Vera Millward, a Spanish-born mother of seven, had been living with her Jamaican boyfriend, Cy Burkett, in their flat in Greenham Avenue , Hulme, at the time of her death. Vera had been very ill after an operation, the third in as many years. She left her home on Tuesday 16 May to buy some cigarettes and pick up some painkillers from the nearby hospital. Sometime after purchasing her cigarettes, she met Peter Sutcliffe.
On the grounds of the Manchester Royal Infirmary, in a well lit area, Peter Sutcliffe struck Vera on the head three times, then undressing her in his usual manner, he slashed her so viciously across her stomach that her intestines spilled out. He also stabbed her repeatedly in the one wound on her back, just below the lower left ribs, and punctured her right eyelid, bruising her eye. Her screams for help were heard, and ignored by a man and his son entering the hospital at the time of her attack. People in this area were well accustomed to such cries in the night.
When he had finished with her, Peter dragged her body twelve feet away and dumped her by a chain-link fence, on a rubbish pile in a corner of the carpark. She was found at 8:10 am the following morning, lying on her right side, face down with her arms folded beneath her and her legs straight. Peter had placed her shoes neatly on her body. Tyre tracks were found nearby. They matched those left at the murder site of Irene Richardson and at the site where Marilyn Moore had been attacked.
Despite the number of murders and police warnings of the dangers, there was no visible reduction in the activities of prostitutes in the Yorkshire red-light districts. Although the women were scared, and many had contemplated giving the game up for a while, the reality of poverty, and threats of violence from their pimps soon drove them back onto the streets. Public cooperation in police investigations was minimal. Few who could have given information were willing to get involved and the rest of the community falsely assumed that they were not under threat.
Complacency in this case had always presented a problem for police investigating the Yorkshire Ripper case. The period of eleven months since Vera Millward’s murder had caused the public to relax. Maybe he had stopped? A police psychologist had said that this might happen; the killer might just stop and never be heard from again. The police hoped that was the case.
During that eleven-month lapse, Peter Sutcliffe’s mother had died. It was on 8 November 1978 that Kathleen Sutcliffe, who had suffered from angina for four years, had died of myocardial infarction and ischaemic heart disease at the age of 59. Her eldest son, who had always been closest to her, was grief stricken. He blamed his father for her death. John Sutcliffe had been guilty of many affairs during his years of marriage to Kathleen, which Peter felt had been responsible for his mother’s illness.
Peter and Sonia had been living in their new home for over twelve months by this time and had spent a great deal of time working on improvements. Their neighbours considered them to be an unusual couple that kept very much to themselves. While Sonia spent much of her time working in the garden, Peter would constantly work on his cars. In this time, he had replaced the red Corsair with a metallic-grey Sunbeam Rapier.
At work, Peter was one of Clark ‘s most conscientious drivers who kept immaculate logs and repair records, but his workmates would see him as a bit of a loner who kept very much to himself and never showed any signs of violence, nor did he swear or speak crudely about sex or women. When police interviewed him again because his registration number had been noted in red-light areas, he was not noticeably concerned. He explained that driving to and from work regularly took him through those areas.
On 23 March 1979 George Oldfield received another letter, supposedly from the Yorkshire Ripper. Although many had doubted the authenticity of the first two letters, a reference made to a medical detail in the Vera Millward murder made them wonder. Saliva tests were taken on the envelope, and this time they achieved a result. Saliva taken from under the envelope flap indicated the rare blood group B, the same as that of Joan Harrison’s killer. Forensic tests confirmed that all three of the letters were from the same source. The writer predicted that the next victim would be “an old slut” in Bradford or Liverpool .
This prediction was to prove incorrect when on Wednesday 4 April 1979, the killer struck again. Josephine Whitaker, a building-society clerk, had walked the short mile to her grandparents’ home in Halifax to show them the new watch she had bought. Her grandmother had been out when she arrived, so she watched television with her grandfather to await her return at 11:00 pm. Tom and Mary Priestley always enjoyed their granddaughter’s weekly Sunday visits, and had been pleasantly surprised by this extra mid-week visit. When Jo, as they called her, decided to go home, her grandparents tried to talk her into staying the night, but she preferred to go home. It was only a ten-minute walk, which she had taken many times before.
It was almost midnight by the time she reached Savile Park , an area of open grassland surrounded by well-lit roads. As she walked across the damp grass in the park, Peter Sutcliffe stopped her to ask the time. She looked toward the town clock in the distance and Peter took the hammer from his jacket, crashing it down on the young woman’s head. As she lay on the grass, he hit her again, and then dragged her 30 feet back into the darkness, away from the road. He pulled her clothing back and stabbed her twenty-five times, into her breasts, stomach and thighs, even into her vagina. He left her lying like a bundle of rags. One of her tan shoes still lay at the roadside where his attack had begun. She had been almost in sight of her home when Peter had killed her.
The next morning, at 6:30 am, a woman waiting at the bus stop found her body and called the police. Soon after, Josephine’s younger brother David set off for his early morning paper round. As he neared the park, he saw the police officers huddled around something lying on the ground. Curiosity drew him closer to the scene where it became apparent what the men were looking at, and then he saw his sister’s shoe lying near the roadside. In a panic he ran home, yelling to his mother as he came into the house. Josephine’s mother ran upstairs to check her daughter’s room. Josephine was not there. When she called the Halifax police, they were not able to put to rest her greatest fear.
The pathologist’s report revealed that there had been traces of a mineral oil used in engineering shops in Josephine Whitaker’s wounds. It was soon confirmed that the particles were similar to those found on one of the envelopes of the mysterious letters from Sunderland . The letters were seen as credible evidence that could lead toward the capture of the elusive Yorkshire Ripper.
On 16 April, George Oldfield announced that the, now daily, press conference would be held at 3:30 pm instead of 10:30 am. The press were ready for the announcement of an important break-through in the case. The police had already sent a team of four detectives to Sunderland who had begun visiting firms in the area to gather details of “Geordies” who had been to Yorkshire on the dates of the attacks. At the press conference, Oldfield announced the Geordie connection and asked firms in the West Yorkshire area to check their records of employees who had been sent to Sunderland during March 1978 and March 1979.
Two months later, when Oldfield received a cassette tape from the writer of the letters, the police would be sent on a wild goose chase as they searched for the killer with the Geordie accent. While police officials debated whether or not to go public with the tape, news of its arrival and contents were leaked to the press. The decision was made and a press conference, at which the tape was played, was called on Tuesday 26 June 1979.
The public response was enormous with 50,000 calls received by police, putting further strain on the already under-staffed West Yorkshire force. The incident room at Sunderland had to be expanded to 100 officers. By the end of the second day they had received 1000 calls and every lead was followed up and officers were still busy in August when Mr Stanley Ellis, a Leeds University voice expert, announced that the voice on the tape was from a village in Castletown.
A team of police officers were moved to Castletown where interviews were carried out in every home but to no avail. The men who were found to match the voice had alibis for the dates of the attacks, thus the natural conclusion should have been that the person who wrote the letters and sent the tape was not the Yorkshire Ripper. Instead, the police continued to propagate the belief in the minds of the public that the Yorkshire Ripper had a Geordie accent.
The strain of the investigation had taken its toll on George Oldfield, who suffered three heart attacks and was hospitalised at the end of July. He would not return to the investigation until the beginning of 1980.
By the end of August 1979, many officials were beginning to question the validity of the Geordie connection. The extent of the search for the writer of the letters would have been successful by now if he had, in fact, been the killer. The discrepancies in the details in the letters and the fact that the surviving victims had not recognised the voice on the tape were all valid reasons, in the minds of more and more of the police investigators, to dismiss the letters and tape altogether.
On the night of 1 September 1979, Barbara Janine Leach went to The Mannville Arms with five of her closest friends. Barbara was a student at Bradford University and lived with a group of students in a house in Grove Terrace, just across Great Horton Road from the University. She had decided not to go home to Kettering where her parents, Beryl and David Leach lived, so she could continue studying before the beginning of her third year of a Bachelor of Science degree. She had rung her mother earlier that day to wish her father a happy birthday and apologised for not sending him a card. She told her mother that she would be heading home on Monday to spend the week with them.
Barbara Leach, Victim
Also at The Mannville Arms that night was Peter Sutcliffe. He had seen Barbara from across the other side of the room and had watched her continuously. At closing time, 11:00 pm, he left and waited in his car outside. Barbara, along with her five friends, had stayed behind to help clean up and have a drink with the landlord Roy Evans. When they finally left at 12:45am, Peter was watching nearby as the group walked towards Great Horton Road . As they were about to turn left into Grove Terrace, Barbara decided to go for a walk and invited her friend, Paul Smith to join her. When he declined the offer, she asked him to wait up for her, as she didn’t have a key, he agreed and they parted company.
As he watched Barbara walk down Great Horton Road alone, Peter started the car and drove down to Back Ash Grove where he parked the car. With hammer and knife in hand, he got out of the car and walked quickly along the alley way, knowing that Barbara would soon be walking past at the other end. He waited for her in the shadows of Ash Grove, listening to the echo of her boots on the pavement as she walked toward him. As she passed, he sprang, smashing the hammer into her head. It only took the one blow and she was dead.
Quickly, he dragged her lifeless body back into the shadows of the side entrance toward Back Ash Grove. In the yard behind number 13, he dropped her body and tore at her clothing, exposing her breasts, abdomen and underpants. He stabbed her eight times, then dragged her body near some rubbish bins and covered her with a piece of old carpet which lay near-by.
Paul Smith waited for Barbara for over an hour then, assuming that she had decided to join one of the many parties being held all over the area, went to bed. When she hadn’t come home the next morning, he rang her parents and the police. A search began that same day and her body was found that afternoon. Professor Gee, the pathologist who had worked on all of the Yorkshire Ripper cases, believed that the knife used to stab Barbara was the same one used on Josephine Whittaker.
With the deaths of two victims that were not prostitutes in non-red light areas in a six month period, the West Yorkshire public were now interested in more than just gruesome stories about the Yorkshire Ripper. They wanted action. Why weren’t the police doing something to stop this killer who had dared to threaten the lives of “decent women?
Police investigations were stepped up and a £1 million-publicity campaign was launched involving newspaper advertising and the posting of billboards, reminding the public of the killer with the Geordie accent. By now there were few people who would have ever suspected a bearded lorry driver with a Yorkshire accent living in Bradford , only a five-minute drive away form police headquarters.
On Thursday 13 September, West Yorkshire police issued a confidential eighteen-page report to all other forces. It outlined the sixteen known Ripper attacks and was intended to help police in the elimination of suspects. Along with detailed descriptions of all of the evidence pertaining to the case, including the letters and a transcript of the tape, there was a five-point list to be used for the purposes of elimination. It stated that any suspects could be eliminated if:
1. The man was not born between 1924 and 1959, only those between 20 and 55 years of age need be considered.
2. The man was obviously a coloured person.
3. His shoe size was nine or over.
4. His blood group was other than B, and most crucially
5. His accent was dissimilar to a North Eastern (Geordie) accent.
The report then described the three most common elements in all of the known cases as being:
1. The use of two weapons, a sharp instrument and an alleged one-and-a-quarter-pound ball-peen hammer.
2. The absence of sexual interference, and
3. The clothing moved to expose breasts and pubic region.
Officers in every region were asked to report any similar attacks in their areas, whether fatal or not.
Another important change in police procedure involved the use of a new computer program through the Police National Computer. By entering the makes and registration numbers of vehicles sighted in the areas of the attacks, the computer could chart precise flow patterns of individual vehicles. It was hoped that witness information of a particular car type in the area of an attack could be matched with vehicle registration numbers recorded in the area, and then cross-checked against other records. Through this process, they were able to eliminate 200,000 vehicles, including that which was driven by a lorry driver in Heaton who lived and worked in the area.
While the use of the computer enabled police to check and crosscheck information at enormous speed, saving thousands of man-hours, it also created an avalanche of new information that had to be checked. By the beginning of 1980, the police were faced with millions of facts, five million in the case of car registrations alone, and they were now swamped, barely able to keep up with the demand.
Since January 1979, when Jack Ridgeway and his men had left Bradford in their search for the owner of the £5 note found in Jean Jordan’s handbag, they had returned many times to interview employees of firms like Clark’s, where Peter Sutcliffe worked. Peter had been interviewed on a number of occasions, and his work mates had taken to calling him the Ripper because of the apparent police interest in him. Even as late as 1980, Peter was never considered to be a strong suspect, despite the fact that he had a gap in his front teeth, his car had been spotted in red-light districts a number of times, his blood type was of the B group but not a secretor, he had the right boot size and his name was on the now dramatically shortened list of 300 possible recipients of the £5 note.
Inexplicably, none of the men interviewed at this time were given blood tests, nor were any men placed under surveillance or boot sizes checked. The overwhelming reason for why Peter Sutcliffe was not considered a suspect, even after a total of nine interviews with police, was that he had provided alibis verified by Sonia, and because he did not have a Geordie accent. A frightening indication of how greatly assumptions can prejudice an investigation such as this, limiting the outlook of the investigating officers to the point that they are able to miss vital clues.
In April 1979, Peter Sutcliffe had admitted to his workmates that he was having an affair with a young woman in a village near Glasgow , taking them all completely by surprise. He was the last person they would have ever expected to fool around, he had always talked of his marriage to Sonia in happy terms and never talked about women in a sexual way at all.
He had met Theresa Douglas at the Crown Bar in Holytown, 12 miles from Glasgow , when he made a delivery to the nearby General Motors plant. He returned regularly to the village and quickly won the hearts of Theresa and her family. Known to them as Peter Logan from Yorkshire , they considered him to be one of the nicest men they had ever met. He told the family that he lived alone in a large house in Yorkshire , had been married but was now divorced. He spent many hours talking with Theresa and had at one time admitted to her that he had a potency problem and could not have children. He wrote romantic letters to Theresa, and gave her his father’s address so Sonia would not find out. He had made such a good impression on Theresa and her family that they all laughed when he told them that he was the Yorkshire Ripper after Theresa’s brother William said his eyes looked evil.
In April 1980, a year since he had met Theresa, Peter Sutcliffe was faced with the prospect of losing his licence and his job. There would be no more visits to Glasgow to see his girlfriend, and no more nights cruising the streets of Yorkshire looking for prey.
He had been out drinking and had decided while on his way home to make a detour through Manningham, a careless move considering the amount he had had to drink. Police, who noticed him driving in an erratic manner, stopped him. He was breathalysed, and then arrested. Soon he would have to go to court and would probably lose his license. He was nervous for a far more important reason than this. What if the arresting police were to find that he had been interviewed many times in the Yorkshire Ripper investigations? Would he be revealed as the killer, wanted in what had become known as the crime investigation of the century, all because of a lousy drink driving charge? It wouldn’t happen this time, there were no cross checks done and he was soon free to go home.
If the prospect of losing his licence bothered him, he didn’t show it. He told workmates that he and Sonia planned to move to the country and open a pottery business. They would use the proceeds from the sale of their house to finance the project as Sonia was a talented potter and they could make a decent living. Sonia, although concerned about the drop in income, looked forward to having her husband home with her at nights, it had been a lonely life with Peter working late and spending regular nights at pubs with his friends.
As Peter waited for his impending court appearance, due in January 1981, he attacked four women, killing two of them. The first attack occurred in the respectable suburb of Farsley, Leeds . His 47-year-old victim, Marguerite Walls, was a civil servant who worked at the Department of Education and Science at Farsley. She worked late on the night of 20 August 1980, as she had wanted to clear her desk before she started her vacation the next day. She left her office building at 10:30 pm to begin the short walk home, taking the longest but safest route along well-lit streets. In New Street , as she walked past the entrance to a local magistrate’s house, Peter Sutcliffe jumped out from behind the fence where he had waited for her and hit her on the head with his hammer. Marguerite did not fall to the ground as Peter expected her to, instead she began to scream, and a second blow to the head still did not stop her screaming as she held her now bleeding head. To stop her screaming, he grabbed her by the neck and strangled her. As he did so, he dragged her into the driveway and through the overgrown bushes of the property called Claremont .
By the time he reached the garage, deep in the garden, Marguerite was dead. He ripped at her clothes, tearing them from her and scattering them around the garden, his anger and frustration at his failure to bring his knife rose with him and could not be quelled as he rained blows on her body with his hammer. Before leaving her, he covered her body with leaves that had been left in a pile nearby. As he left the garden, he checked that the street was quiet before stepping out from the darkness, fifteen minutes later he was safely home.
When Marguerite was found the next morning, only four hundred yards from her home, it was soon determined that, although she had been bludgeoned with a hammer, her strangulation ruled her out as a victim of the notorious Yorkshire Ripper.
Headingley, home of one of the world’s best cricket fields where World Series Test Cricket matches are played, was not the type of town anyone would have expected the Yorkshire Ripper to strike. There were no red-light districts. It was a suburb where students, teachers and media people chose to live for its cosmopolitan atmosphere. But it was here that Peter Sutcliffe attacked Dr Upadhya Bandara, visiting Leeds from her native Singapore as part of a World Health Organisation scholarship.
It was 24 September when Dr Bandara made the long walk home after visiting friends in Headingley. As she walked past the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” shop, she noticed a man inside. He was staring at her. She walked on past North Lane , and then turned right into St Michael’s Lane . As she turned into Chapel Lane , an alley that cut through to Cardigan Road , she was hurled to the ground. Peter Sutcliffe slammed his hammer into her head rending her unconscious. He held her around the neck with a ligature to prevent her escape. Upadhya Bandara lay bleeding on the ground as Peter picked up her shoes and handbag and took them several yards away. Before he could resume his attack, he heard footsteps and fled. The footsteps belonged to Mrs Valerie Nicholas whose house backed onto the laneway. She had heard noises at 10:30 pm and had gone out to investigate.
The police in Headingley did not believe that the Yorkshire Ripper had attacked Dr. Upadhya Bandara, despite the fact that she described her attacker as having black hair, a full beard and moustache. Dr. Bandara returned to Singapore to recover.
Peter Sutcliffe’s next attack, on 5 November 1980 in Huddersfield , was also credited to an unknown attacker. Theresa Sykes, a sixteen-year-old who lived with her boyfriend and their three-month-old son, had been walking home across grassland not far from her home when Peter rained three hammer-blows to her head.
He had followed her from The Minstrel pub where she had dropped in to see her father, the owner, before he struck her from behind, with one of the blows so severe that it went through her skull. Theresa screamed as Peter struck her. Her boyfriend, Jimmy Furey, watched in horror from their lounge room window. Within seconds he was running toward Theresa, and Peter. When Peter saw Jimmy he ran back into the darkness of the night.
Theresa miraculously survived the brutal attack, but she was never the same again. After spending several weeks in the neurosurgical unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield , Theresa returned home but early in 1981, she left Jimmy and returned to live with her parents. Theresa was now afraid of men and, despite their plans to marry, she was even afraid of Jimmy. Her father, who always believed that the Yorkshire Ripper had been responsible for his daughter’s attack, said that since the attack her whole personality had changed. Where she was once a happy girl she was now quick to flare up in anger over the smallest thing. Peter Sutcliffe had left his mark on yet another family.
On the night of 17 November 1980, Sonia resigned herself to yet another night alone watching television. Peter had called to tell her that he was still in Gloucester , making a delivery, and would not be home until late. What she would not find out until much later was that Peter was not working at all. He had clocked off from Clark ‘s at 7:03 pm and headed for Headingley where he had spent another evening only a couple of weeks earlier.
He again ate at the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop. As he sat looking out of the window at 9:23 pm, Jacqueline Hill alighted from the number 1 bus at the stop opposite the Arndale shopping arcade. She was returning home after attending a seminar on the probation service in Cookridge Street , Leeds . Jacqueline was a student at the University who had hoped to join the probation service when she graduated the following summer.
Peter Sutcliffe began to follow Jacqueline after she passed the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop. He was behind her as she entered the dimly lit Alma Road toward the Lupton Flats where she had recently moved. Her mother had been concerned about her living alone on the outskirts of town because of the Yorkshire Ripper attacks, so Jacqueline had decided to move to the all-girl flats in Lupton Court , which was part of a complex of university residences behind the Arndale Shopping Centre. Jacqueline was only 100 yards from her home when Peter Sutcliffe struck her on the back of the head.
He dragged the lifeless body of Jacqueline Hill fourteen yards onto some vacant land just behind the Arndale shops car park. Protected from view by trees and bushes, Peter stabbed her repeatedly. He stabbed her in the eye that had stared up at him accusingly as her tore at her clothes and slashed her naked body. When he had finished, he left her and headed for home. He forgot that Jacqueline’s handbag and glasses still lay on the pavement in Alma Road where she had dropped them.
Only a short time after the attack, Amir Hussain, an Iranian student, found the bag as he walked home to Lupton Court . He took it home with him and showed it to his five flat mates, one of whom was an ex-chief inspector with the Hong Kong police, Tony Gosden. Tony became alarmed when he saw that nothing had been stolen from the bag and noticed fresh blood spots on the outside of it. At 11:30 pm, one of the students called the police but it was some time before the two investigating officers arrived at the flat. It was only at the insistence of Mr. Hussain that the police finally agreed to search the area where he found the bag. The brief search by torchlight did not uncover Jacqueline’s body and the police left.
A worker at the Arndale shops discovered Jacqueline the next morning at 10:10 am. She was lying less than thirty yards from where police had searched the previous night. Initially, police denied that the Yorkshire Ripper had struck again until Professor David Gee announced his findings. The Ripper had struck again for what the police wrongly believed to be the first time in fourteen months.
The attack was widely publicised with police requesting the assistance of anyone who had been in the area that night. They were especially interested in talking to the owner of a dark, square-shaped car, which had been seen reversing hurriedly down one-way Alma Road . The driver, understandably, did not come forward.
With Jacqueline’s murder, the real threat of the Yorkshire Ripper was finally brought home to Britain ‘s middle-class. No longer was he just killing prostitutes in the seedy parts of town. “Innocent” women were now acutely aware of the danger to themselves, a danger that prostitutes had been living with for nearly five years. The feminists of Britain , who had previously complained about the police and media referring to non-prostitute victims as “innocent”, were suddenly angry at the death of one of their own. They took to the streets in a violent protest against their loss of the right to walk their own streets safely.
The police were inundated with information from the public. Police in Leeds received 8000 letters, 7000 of which were anonymous. Most named suspects. One of those unsigned letters was from Trevor Birdsall. In it he named Peter Sutcliffe, a lorry-driver from Bradford . When police did still not question Peter two weeks later, Trevor entered the Bradford police headquarters, where he repeated his allegations to the constable on the reception desk. The report was fed into the system and Peter Sutcliffe continued to walk free.
Trevor had been suspicious of Peter for some time before he went to the police, even as far back as Olive Smelt’s attack. But Peter was his friend whom he didn’t think was capable of killing. The police insistence that the Yorkshire Ripper was from Sunderland and spoke with a Geordie accent had allayed Trevor’s suspicions for a long time. When Trevor heard nothing more from police, he assumed that they had followed up with Peter and he had been wrong.
The task force responsible for the investigation into the Yorkshire Ripper murders was not aware of Trevor Birdsall’s letter or his report. They had long been buried under the mountain of information that had been accumulated over the past five years. Since Jacqueline Hill’s attack, George Oldfield was no longer in charge of the investigation; Jim Hobson had replaced him.
Hobson delivered a full-page message to the force in the December issue of the West Yorkshire police newspaper. In this message he asked that all police officers work toward the arrest of the Yorkshire Ripper, committing them to a plan of daily action towards such an outcome. His statement that, although the Yorkshire Ripper probably had a Geordie accent, police should not eliminate a possible suspect on those grounds was to prove a vital influence on the arrest of Peter Sutcliffe in January 1981.
Also in mid-December, Peter Sutcliffe made a trip to Sheffield , an area he had not before visited during his work as a long distance lorry driver. He had gone to the remote depot on the moor north of Sheffield to make a delivery. It should have been a short visit, but the Christmas rush had caused a backlog and Peter had spent most of the day there. The depot manager remembered him well because, unlike most of the lorry drivers he knew, Peter had been softly spoken and well mannered. He did not swear or cuss when told of the delays, he merely passed the time chatting to some of the workers in the busy factory. It would be remembered later that he had asked about an area of vacant land close to Sheffield , which could be clearly seen from the heights of the depot. Peter noted how quiet it was in Sheffield .
Peter had been so impressed by Sheffield that he returned there again two weeks later on Friday 2 January 1981, but this time he was not driving his lorry and the delivery he intended to make was with his hammer on some woman’s head. He left home for the last time at 4:00 pm that afternoon.
Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Reivers had left her two children, Louise 5 and Deroy 3 at home at six o’clock to meet up with her girlfriend Denise Hall, 19, to earn some money from passing “punters” in Sheffield ‘s red light district. It was 9:00 pm, only moments after the two young women had started patrolling along Wharncliffe Road , when Denise met her first potential client. He was driving a brown Rover 3500 and had pulled up to the kerb, but there had been something about his eyes that had disturbed her. Despite his good looks, with a neatly trimmed beard and dark wavy hair, he had frightened her so she declined his offer of £10.
An hour later the same Rover pulled up to the kerb again. When Olivia looked into Peter’s eyes she did not see what her friend Denise saw. Taking him up on his offer of £10, Olivia climbed into the car. They drove a short distance to Melbourne Avenue and parked in the driveway of the British Iron and Steel Producers Association Headquarters. Olivia had often brought her customers up here where it was quiet and isolated, perfect for “business.”
Peter Sutcliffe had been unable to become aroused, despite Olivia’s many attempts, so they had sat and talked for a while, mostly about Peter. In his pocket were his ball-pein hammer, a piece of rope and a knife. He was just waiting for an opportunity to get the woman outside. While he waited, Sgt. Robert Ring and Constable Robert Hydes were driving along Melbourne Road as part of their general patrol. When they saw the dark Rover parked in the driveway, they had a pretty good idea why.
They pulled in behind the Rover and questioned the couple sitting in the car. He said his name was Peter Williams. The dusky woman said she was his girlfriend. Luckily for Olivia, Ring remembered her face, certain that she was a convicted prostitute with a suspended sentence. He told her to get into the police car. Peter Williams told them he needed to go to the toilet, and walked further along the dark driveway. Near the entrance to the building, there was an oil storage tank. It was behind this tank, well out of view of the policemen, that Peter placed his hammer and knife; he hoped they hadn’t heard the sound they had made as he placed them on the ground near the wall.
As Peter made his way back to his car, Ring and Hydes had called into the station for a check on Peter’s car registration number. Within seconds the operator at the end of the line had got the information they were looking for through a direct link to the Police National Computer at Hendon. The registration number on the brown Rover parked in front of them belonged to a Skoda. Both officers got out of the car and checked the plates on Peter’s car, which were held on with black tape. When they checked, they learned the licence number was FHY 400K. Peter confirmed this and admitted that his real name was Peter William Sutcliffe and lived at Garden Lane , Heaton, Bradford. He had lied because he didn’t want his wife to find out that he had been with a prostitute.
Back at the police station in Hammerton Road , Olivia and Peter were placed in separate interview rooms. Peter told them that he had stolen the plates from a car in a scrap yard in Cooper Bridge , which meant that Peter would have to be transferred to another jurisdiction, just as soon as they found out where Cooper Bridge was. After many calls, they found that Cooper Bridge fell under the jurisdiction of Dewsbury police headquarters. They were told an officer would be there in the morning after 6:00 am when Ring and Hydes finished their shift.
Sonia was called and told that her husband wouldn’t be home that night and Peter was placed in a cell to sleep the night. Before retiring, Peter asked permission to go to the toilet. While he was there he placed a second knife in the cistern.
As the three officers from West Yorkshire drove toward Sheffield , an officer from the Dewsbury station rang the Incident Room in Milgarth, the base for the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry. It was a routine call made because of a recent directive from Hobson to all West Yorkshire police that any man found with prostitutes in suspicious circumstances was to be reported to the task force.
At 8.55, Peter Sutcliffe arrived at Dewsbury police station with the West Yorkshire police where he was transferred into the station’s interview room. Just after 9:00 am Sonia called and was told that her husband was being interviewed in relation to the theft of car number plates. In the interview room, Peter Sutcliffe chatted with officers about his work as a lorry driver and his love of cars. They noted that he had dark frizzy hair, a beard and a gap between his teeth.
The officers were familiar with the five points of reference for the elimination of suspects in the Yorkshire Ripper case but were not fazed by the lack of Geordie accent. Peter Sutcliffe lived in Bradford in the heart of Ripper country and had told them that he had driven to Sunderland many times in his work as a lorry driver. The list of possible cars did not include the brown Rover that Peter was driving at the time of his arrest, but Peter had told them about his white Corsair with the black roof.
While being questioned by a detective, it was learned that police had questioned Peter Sutcliffe on a number of other occasions in relation to the Yorkshire Ripper case. He wore a size 8 shoe, maybe even a 7. Det. Sgt. Des O’Boyle, an officer of the task force and well versed with the Yorkshire Ripper case, had left for Dewsbury at lunchtime on Saturday 6 November to question Sutcliffe himself. During the afternoon a blood test revealed that Peter Sutcliffe was of the rare B group. By 6:00 pm that night, while not totally convinced that Peter Sutcliffe was the Yorkshire Ripper, O’Boyle called into the Milgarth incident room and told his senior officer, Det. Insp. John Boyle, that he would not be clocking off but would stay with the case. At 10:00 pm Sutcliffe was locked in his cell and had gone to bed.
When Sgt. Ring returned to Hammerton Road police station to begin his 10:00 pm- 6:00 am shift, he was told that Sutcliffe was still being held at Dewsbury station and being questioned by Yorkshire Ripper squad officers. Ring would then make a decision which would have a momentous impact on the Yorkshire Ripper investigation. Sutcliffe had left his car to go to the toilet, maybe he had left something at the scene, he recalled hearing a clinking noise. Ring returned to the driveway on Melbourne Avenue to have a look around. When he shone his torch on the ground by the wall behind the oil storage tank, Ring found the ball-pein hammer and knife that Peter had cautiously left there the night before.
A Det. Supt. at Sheffield made a call to Det. Supt. Dick Holland at his home in Elland, near Huddersfield . Holland quickly suppressed the initial excitement he had felt when he was told that it looked like they may have finally caught the infamous Ripper. If it was their man, he wanted to be sure that they did everything right. Holland issued John Boyle with a number of instructions on how to proceed with the investigation and requested that he be briefed at 9:00 am the following morning at Bradford police headquarters.
At 9:30 on Sunday 4 January, Dick Holland, Sgt. O’Boyle, Det. Chief Inspector George Smith and Det. Constable Jenny Crawford-Brown arrived at number 6, Garden Lane where Sonia Sutcliffe told them that they could search the house. At 10:00 am they left, taking with them a number of tools, which included ball-pein hammers, and Sonia Sutcliffe, and returned to Bradford Police Headquarters where police questioned Sonia extensively for thirteen hours.
Dick Holland had sent Det. Sgt. Peter Smith of the Regional Crime Squad, who had been involved in the Ripper case longer than almost anyone else, to question Sutcliffe in Dewsbury. Throughout the morning, the investigating officers, without overtly mentioning the Ripper attacks, gleaned as many details of Sutcliffe’s movements at the times of the attacks as possible. At the same time officers behind the scenes were working to gain as much information about Peter Sutcliffe’s movements over the past five years as they could, including visits to past employers and making other enquiries in the Bradford area.
By early Sunday afternoon, Peter was beginning to lose the incredible calmness that he had shown throughout the 48-hour ordeal. The police were now sure that they had the right man. When questioned about his movements on the night of Theresa Sykes’ attack on 5 November 1980, Sutcliffe told them that he was positive that he had arrived home by 8:00 pm. Sonia’s recollection was different. She distinctly remembered Peter arriving home at 10:00 pm. Although no longer officially in charge of the investigation, George Oldfield was called and told of the news. He quickly made his way to Dewsbury where he was joined shortly afterwards by other senior officers from the task force.
Task Force: Hobson (seated), (standing left
to right) Gerty, Harvey, Emmant, Kind
to right) Gerty, Harvey, Emmant, Kind
At 2:40 pm, Peter Sutcliffe was told about the discovery of the hammer and knife as they continued to question him about the attack on Theresa Sykes. It was then that Peter Sutcliffe sat back in his chair and calmly admitted that he was the Yorkshire Ripper. The killer’s mask had finally been removed and the most “known unknown man” was revealed. Over the next twenty-six hours, Peter Sutcliffe, calmly and with little display of emotion, told police officers the gruesome details of the last five years of death and mutilation. The only emotion he showed was when discussing the murder of 16-year-old Jayne MacDonald and when police questioned him regarding the murder of Joan Harrison, which he strongly denied.
After his confession, Peter Sutcliffe had one request of George Oldfield. He wanted to be the one to tell his wife Sonia. She was immediately driven from Bradford Police Headquarters to the Dewsbury station where George Oldfield met her before being taken to the interview room to see her husband. Sutcliffe sat at a small table across from Sonia as he calmly told her the shocking story. When Sonia emerged from the interview room, she appeared to be calm, not revealing what emotions she may have had hidden below the surface. Police would continue to question her about her husband’s movements during the past five years, since the attack on Anna Rogulskyj in 1975.
After Sutcliffe’s official statement had been recorded, a press conference was called. Eighty journalists packed the small room in which Ronald Gregory, George Oldfield and Jim Hobson sat smiling at the cameras while making the announcement that they believed they had finally caught the Yorkshire Ripper. The elation the police felt was reflected by the abandonment of established procedure in dealing with the press in such a situation. Although Sutcliffe’s name was not actually stated, many details not normally revealed, usually omitted to protect a suspect’s defence, were revealed to the public.
On Monday 5 January, when Peter Sutcliffe appeared in the magistrate’s court in Dewsbury, the question that had plagued the British public for the past five years was answered. Everyone now knew the identity of the Yorkshire Ripper. The question as to why he had killed thirteen women and left seven more so brutalised that they would wish they too had died was answered on Tuesday 6 January.
Peter Sutcliffe told police that in 1967, at the age of twenty, he had heard the voice of God speak to him as he worked at Bingley cemetery. He would claim that he had first heard that voice while digging a grave. He stated that the voice had led him to a cross-shaped headstone upon which were written the Polish words JEGO, WEHBY and ECHO. It was this same voice that had ordered him to kill prostitutes. Police officials were satisfied that Peter Sutcliffe was mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and should be incarcerated in an institution for the insane.
Tombstone in Sutcliffe’s vision
Mr. Justice Boreham was not as sure as the police, the psychiatrists, the prosecution and Sutcliffe’s defence counsel. They had made their conclusions purely on the basis of what Sutcliffe had told them. It seemed very likely that Sutcliffe could be lying. Sutcliffe had been overheard telling his wife that he might be able to reduce his sentence to as little as ten years if he could convince everyone that he was mad. Boreham informed the Attorney General, Sir Michael Havers, of his decision that Peter Sutcliffe should go to trial before a jury of twelve members of the public. They would decide whether Peter Sutcliffe was mad or guilty of the crime of murder.
The trial would last fourteen days and it would take the six men and six women of the jury six hours to make their decision. Like the deliberations of any jury in a murder case, there was much discussion, but unlike in any other case, this jury did not discuss whether or not Peter William Sutcliffe had committed the crime of murder. It was the responsibility of this jury to determine the true mental state of Peter Sutcliffe. The prosecution had put before them the possibility that Sutcliffe had been lying when he told police about the voice of God, which had ordered him to kill. The defence, with the help of many psychiatrists, had attempted to prove that the story was true.
On Friday 22 May 1981, Peter Sutcliffe stood before the jury as the jury foreman declared the decision that Peter William Sutcliffe was guilty of thirteen counts of murder. Ten of these twelve men and women believed that Peter William Sutcliffe was not insane, but was in fact an evil and sadistic murderer.
Five years of terror and pain for so many women, their parents, relatives, friends and their thirty-six children came to a sudden end when Peter William Sutcliffe, the notorious Yorkshire Ripper was led away from the dock, showing no emotion, to begin his sentence of life imprisonment. Justice appeared to be served, but the scars would never heal for those who survived the carnage wrought by the hand of one man.
On May 9, 2001, the BBC broadcast taped prison conversations between Peter Sutcliffe and Diane Simpson, a graphologist. The program called “Dear Peter – Letters to the Yorkshire Ripper” examined the relationship that three women had with convicted serial killer Peter Sutcliffe. These three women have been in constant contact with Sutcliffe while he has been in Broadmoor hospital.
Sutcliffe was sent to Broadmoor after being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Even though Sutcliffe is a vicious predator of women, Sutcliffe gets some 30 letters a week from women.
The desperately lonely psychopathic serial killer is effusive in his kindness: “I won’t let anybody down who visits me. I will always give them a really nice visit. I guess I’m a guy who needs friends.”
The program also featured interviews with two women who were admirers of Sutcliffe’s: Sandra Lester and Olive Curry.
The BBC reported that Lester had been writing to Sutcliffe since 1990. After reading about him, she wanted to “extend a Christian hand of support.” The result of a year of letter writing was that she convinced herself that she was in love with him. However, with all the female attention Sutcliffe was getting, he was not about to limit himself. Consequently he refused to allow Lester visiting rights, telling prison authorities that he wanted to have many women friends.
The other woman in the BBC program was Olive Curry. Sutcliffe was kind enough to permit Curry to visit him. The BBC reported that Curry “believes he used to visit the Seaman’s Mission Cafe in Sheffield where she worked before he was caught. Curry says she wanted him to reveal the identity of his companion, whom she believed could have been his accomplice. Curry told the BBC that Sutcliffe was always in the company of a man with a Wearside accent who she believes could have been his accomplice in many of the murders. Although Sutcliffe denies having been to the canteen, the pair have exchanged 500 letters.”
Christine Morgan, who produced the program said: “Most people would express some surprise that anybody would like to write to him.
“There are elements of curiosity, grim fascination and excitement for these women.
“A lot of woman believe they can heal him.
“In all cases women have been disillusioned and dejected and played one off against another by him.”
Why do women write to and fall in love with vicious sexual predators? Is this unusual and is Peter Sutcliffe unique? Why are women so attracted to bad boys?
Though many people find it hard to believe, it is very common for serial killers to have many women admirers professing love. To name just of few of the most heinous, Richard Ramirez known as the “Night Stalker,” Doug Clark and Ken Bianchi of the “Hillside Stranglers” had numerous pen pals that adored them.
Peter Sutcliffe, the psychopath who is so expert in conning women, leads them on with phrases like “You are a breath of fresh air” and “I like this cloud nine thing with you.”
Diane Simpson, a handwriting analyst from Cheshire , has invested hundreds of hours communicating with Sutcliffe over the past 10 years. She told the BBC that “she worked on the original manhunt and, still fascinated, wrote to him after his conviction. His letters piqued her interest by repeatedly hinting that he would confess to other crimes.”
Newcastle University psychologist Dr. George Erdos explains this phenomenon, “for men like Sutcliffe, letter-writing not only fills the long boring days behind bars.” Regarding the women, Dr. Erdos thinks that they are lonely or possibly “caught up in a religious fervor to forgive the unforgivable.”
Professor Petruska Clarkson, a relationship psychotherapist, believes that “some may fantasize that a man like Sutcliffe may be the way he is because he has yet to be loved by the right person – and they may well be the one. This is certainly a way to feel special and unique.
“Villains capture the imagination. Human beings are interested in those who live by extremes since they often do what other, more ordinary mortals, cannot bear to think of themselves capable [of doing].
“People who kill women, particularly prostitutes, do it for reasons of inadequacy.” They don’t like women, or they’re frightened of them. Being in prison, an all-male environment, means there’s little chance to vent that aggression.
“This way, he can manipulate women by telling them how special they are, then cause grief by saying, ‘You know you’re not the only one’. It’s a sadistic thing to do.”
Professor Petruska Clarkson explains that convicts may also seek attention in this way because it’s a basic human need to form bonds with others.