Peter William Sutcliffe, A.K.A “The Yorkshire Ripper”
Date and Place of Birth: June 2nd, 1946, Bingley England
Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?
Peter Sutcliffe is, quite predictably, fucking looney toons. When Sutcliffe was finally arrested he stated that God spoke to him and sent him on a mission to kill prostitutes (spoiler alert, he kills prostitutes), and then had the nerve to plead not guilty at his trial using diminished responsibility. So…. like did you do it or not bro? cause even if “God told you to do it” you still did it…. and like you’re also saying that your mental faculties were diminished, and you didn’t know what you were doing….so like ya I’m a bit confused.
But let’s go back, back to Sutcliffe’s childhood. Sutcliffe was born to a working-class family in Bingley, England. Not much else is known about his early childhood but it seems like he had a relatively normal upbringing. At the age of 15 Sutcliffe dropped out of school and began working. Which in 1961 was not really that abnormal for a young boy to do. During these first years Sutcliffe worked as a grave digger at two different cemeteries. He later traded that job for a new job as a worker on a packaging line at the Baird Television factory. Here he actually moved forward in his ‘career’, and only left his packing position when the company offered him a position as a travelling salesman (yikes…that’s never a good thing for a future serial killer). Eventually Sutcliffe grew tired of this position and left the Baird company and began working nightshifts at a new job.
In 1969 Sutcliffe had been out looking for a prostitute, he eventually found one, he expected an evening of cheap sex. Instead the woman stole his wallet and ran off into the night. Furious Sutcliffe drove around the area for hours looking for that women who had ripped him off. He never found her, but he did find another prostitute, whom he assaulted, probably out of anger at the previous prostitute. As Sutcliffe was fleeing the women noted down his license plate, and reported him to the police, who came to Sutcliffe home the very next day to question him. I am unsure why the woman called this in as she told the police that she did not want to press charges or pursue the incident any further, but this was Sutcliffe’s first known brush with the law.
During this time Sutcliffe had a girlfriend, Sonia Szurma with whom things were beginning to become serious with, and on August 10th, 1974 the two were married. The two had been trying to have children but Sonia had miscarriage after miscarriage, eventually finding out that she was unable to have children. A year later in 1975 the company Sutcliffe had started working for had begun to downsize and they offered Peter redundancy (something like a payout), he then used half of this pay to take the training to become a heavy goods vehicle driver, which quickly lead to a lucrative career. This good news did not seem to rejuvenate Sutcliffe’s mind as this was the year of his second assault. On July 5th, 1975 Sutcliffe attacked young Anna Rogulskyj, who was walking alone in a neighborhood when Sutcliffe snuck up behind her and rendered her unconscious with a ball-peen hammer. He then slashed at her stomach with a knife. It is believed that this woman was intended to be Sutcliffe’s first murder victim, but he was disturbed by a neighbor coming outside that instead he fled, leaving Anna bleeding on the ground. One month later in August Sutcliffe decided to try again. He attacked Olive Smelt in the suburb of Halifax (no not the Halifax in Canada, for my Canadian readers). He went about this in the same way as his previous assault victim, he snuck up behind her, rendered her unconscious with a hammer, and then slashed at her with a knife. But once again this assault was interrupted by a neighbor coming outside. That same month Sutcliffe attacked young teenager, Tracy Brown in Silsden, a nearby town. He found young Tracy walking alone down a country road, Sutcliffe struck her from behind and proceeded to hit her over the head a total of 5 times. But once again he was scared off by the lights of an approaching car. This attack left young Tracy requiring brain surgery.
Sutcliffe was growing angry; he was attempting something he had wanted for a very long time and it was not working out for him. But all that came to an end on October 30th 1975, when Sutcliffe attacked mother of 4, Wilma McCann by striking her in the head as he had with his previous victims, and then began stabbing Wilma over 15 times in the neck, chest and abdomen. This led to a very extensive police investigation, involving over 150 police officers, 11,000 interviews and thousands of man hours. However, this was all in vain, the police officers did not find the culprit and eventually the case became cold. This marked the beginning of Sutcliffe’s serial killings over the next 5 years. Sutcliffe’s second murder victim was Emily Jackson, a prostitute in the Leeds area, and was committed in January of 1976. He stabbed Emily 52 times with a screwdriver! 52 TIMES! Raise and lower your arm 52 times even that’s tiring. It is just so excessive. Obviously there has to be some anger inside of Sutcliffe for him to be able to do this…. like what does he have to be mad about?? Following that, on May 9th, 1976 Sutcliffe attacked 20-year-old Marcella Claxton who was walking home from a party and accepted a ride from Sutcliffe. Peter once again failed his attempt at murder, and Marcella got away, however there was still a death in this situation, Marcella had been 4 months pregnant and subsequently had a miscarriage after this whole ordeal. Eventually Marcella would testify against Sutcliffe at his murder trial. This murder was enough to curb Sutcliffe’s needs for a while because this was his last murder or assault for 1 year and 1 month later.
Eventually though Sutcliffe needed to murder again. On February 5th, 1977 Peter attacked another sex worker named Irene Richardson in Roundhay park. He, true to form, bludgeoned her to death with a hammer, this time though, he took it another step and mutilated her corpse with a knife. This is something important to note, as a serial killer begins to feel more comfortable killing, and more confident it his or her ability to not get caught their killings will become more violent and usually also more frequent. Sutcliffe deciding to mutilate this women most likely means that he had always had a desire to do so and either did not have the courage at the time, was always interrupted, or possibly was scared to let himself go that far. However usually when a killer’s routine changes, they end up making more mistakes. Sutcliffe left tire tracks at this murder scene, although he did get kind of lucky as the type of tire, he had was a common one and they could not narrow it down enough. A short two months later on April 23rd, Sutcliffe murdered Patricia Atkinson, another sex worker, in her apartment, another 2 months later he murdered 16 year old Jayne MacDonald, this victim was slightly different, as she was not a sex worker and up until this point he had only murdered or assaulted sex workers. This new victim profile scared the public, they now saw that anyone could be targeted, anyone could cross paths with the devil that was terrorizing the area. In July Sutcliffe attacked Maureen Bradford, in this case though Sutcliffe was again interrupted, and he had to flee. The witness at the scene that rescued Bradford misidentified the vehicle Sutcliffe had fled in, which resulted in more that 300 police officers looking for the wrong make of vehicle, wasting a huge amount of man hours.
3 months later Sutcliffe did have more success with his spree, when he murders Jean Jordan, another sex worker from Manchester. A ‘funny’ adage to this case though, when Sutcliffe had met Jean, he had paid her more her services with a new five dollar note, that was traceable, when he realized this he had already buried Jean and left the scene, he had to return, dig up her grave and search for the note. Unfortunately for Jean and her family, he could not find the note and instead mutilated her corpse, I’m not sure if it was out of anger or precaution. This however was the beginning of the end for Sutcliffe. Jordan’s body was discovered by a local 8 days later on October 9th. The police, being much more thorough than Sutcliffe, the fucking nutloaf, found the 5 dollar note that Sutcliffe had given to Jean in a secret compartment in her purse. They were able to trace the note to the Midland Bank in Shipley and their sister branch in Bingley. They eventually found that this note could have gone to anyone of 8,000 employees in their bi-weekly wage. This meant many man hours and many interrogations, including one with Sutcliffe himself, unfortunately Sutcliffe’s alibi was relatively credible and placed him at a family party for most of the evening.
All this heat did not deter Sutcliffe for long. 2 months later he attacked a woman named Marilyn Moore, once again, a sex worker from Leeds. She did survive and was able to provide police with a description of the man who attacked her, which up until this point was something the police had never gotten. They also found that the tire tracks they discovered at the scene of the crime matched the tire tracks from the Maureen Bradford attack. At this point the police were no longer focusing on the 5 dollar note that they had traced to the bank that Sutcliffe was working at. This gave Sutcliffe the courage to kill again. And in January of 1978 he killed Yvonne Pearson, a 21-year-old sex worker from the Bradford area. Her body was not discovered until 4 months later, under a discarded sofa on the side of the road. How creepy is that. 10 days after attacking Yvonne, Sutcliffe attacked and killed 18-year-old Helen Rytka, attacking her with a ball-peen hammer as she exited his vehicle and then stabbing her multiple times in the chest. On March 16th he killed Vera Millward in a parking garage at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.
One short moth later, Sutcliffe attacked and killed Josephine Whitaker, a Society clerk, while she was walking home from work. At this point letters and audio recordings were being sent to the police and media, from the killer, or so everyone thought. The recordings were taunting the police for not having caught him yet, saying things like “I’m Jack. I see you’re having no luck catching me. I have the greatest respect for you George, but lord you’re no nearer catching me that four years ago when I started”, George being the assistant chief George Oldfield, a lead on the cade from the beginning. The letters he sent were all signed “Jack the Ripper”. Eventually in 2005, DNA was taken from one of the envelopes was tested and found out to be from a man named John Samuel Humble, an unemployed alcoholic from a local estate was charged with attempting to prevent the course of justice, at was given 8 years in prison.
On September 1st (my birthday ☹) Sutcliffe murdered 20-year-old Barbara Leach, a local university student. This again sent the public into a rage and terror that this serial killer was killing non sex workers. Despite the police work being done, and the fact that Sutcliffe himself had been interviewed 9 times of the course of the investigation he was still walking free and wasn’t even that high on the list of suspects. Either he is the luckiest guy on earth, or the West Yorkshire police were absolute garbage at their jobs…and the are the target of intense scrutiny later. In the year 1980 Sutcliffe killed 2 more women, 47-year-old Marguerite Walls on August 20th and Jacquline Hill on November 17th. Finally, on November 25th, 1980 an associate of Sutcliffe’s reported him to the police under suspicion that he was the man terrorizing the area over the last 11 years. Unfortunately, somehow all the paperwork for this tip disappeared and nothing came of it.
Then on January 2nd, 1981 Sutcliffe was caught by the police with a local prostitute, who, had the cops not intervened, probably would have been his next victim. The police found that the car Sutcliffe was driving had false numbered plates and this is what he was taken into custody for, here he was transferred to Dewbury police station and questioned about the Yorkshire Ripper case because of his striking resemblance to the man thought to be committing the crimes. The following day, police returned to the place where they had arrested Sutcliffe and found a discarded knife, some rope, and a hammer, confirming my earlier suspicion that the young prostitute he had been caught with the day earlier would have in fact been his next victim. Finally, after 2 days of intense questioning, and 12 years of terror, Sutcliffe confessed. He declared that he was the ripper, the man that the police had been trying so long to catch was a man that they had met with several times over the years. He then went on to tell the police all the grizzly details. The only murder he seemed to display any emotion over was that of Jayne MacDonald, who was his youngest victim, only 16 years old, in 1977.
On January 5th, 1981 Sutcliffe was charged with 13 charges of murder. He plead not guilty. But instead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibly. He claimed he was a tool of god’s will. This seemed to be a ‘convenient’ excuse to many, when he was first caught, he never seemed to claim this, until he began meeting with his lawyers. The judge eventually rejected the diminished responsibility plea, and insisted this case be dealt with by a jury. The trial was set for May 5th, 1981 and Sutcliffe was found guilty on all counts of murder; he was sentenced to 20 concurrent life sentences. The judge stated that he thought Sutcliffe was beyond redemption and hoped he would remain in prison for life, he recommended 30 years before parole could be considered. In the end the West Yorkshire Police were criticized for their lack of organization and missed opportunities. George Oldfield was also targeted specifically because of his obsession with the hoax tapes, however if he hadn’t of focused on them, they would have criticized him for that instead. There was also some backlash from local feminists saying that the police were victim blaming when they told the public that women should be staying inside at night. Eleven ‘Take Back the Night’ rallies were held across the United Kingdom, with women pointing out that they should be able to walk anywhere at anytime and they should not be blamed for men’s violence.
Throughout his time in prison Sutcliffe has dealt with several assaults. In 1983 Sutcliffe was attacked by career criminal James Costello, requiring several stitches. In 1996 he was attacked again by Paul Wilson who attempted to strangle him with a cable from a pair of headphones, unfortunately two other convicted murderers overheard Sutcliffe’s screams and intervened, saving Sutcliffe’s life. In 1997 he was attacked by Ian Kay, who stabbed Sutcliffe in his left eye, subsequently leaving him blind in that eye. Then again in 2007 Sutcliffe was attacked by Patrick Sureda who lunged at him screaming “you fucking raping, murdering bastard, I’ll blind your fucking other one”. However, screaming this gave Sutcliffe ample time to dodge him attack sparing his eye, but stabbing Peter in the cheek.
At long last, on July 16th, 2010 the High Court of Justice determined that Sutcliffe would never be fit to leave prison and re-join society, and instead would spend the remainder of his life in prison. As of August 2010, Peter Sutcliffe is residing in Frankland Prison in Durham and will most likely remain there for the remainder of his life. And that is the sick story of Peter Sutcliffe, the man to seemed to kill for no other reason than he wanted to, no bad childhood, no head trauma, no sexual assault, just what seems to have been a relatively normal life…..the things that make you go “hmmm”.
Sources: murderpedia.org, allthatsinteresting.com, thesun.co.uk, execulink.com, wikipedia.com