Who is Peter Sutcliffe?
Peter William Sutcliffe was born on the second of June 1946 in Bingley, West Yorkshire, England. He is a British serial killer and was often referred to as “The Yorkshire Ripper.” Peter Sutcliffe murdered 13 women over a period of five years from 1975 - 1980. He was apprehended on the 2nd of January 1981. Sutcliffe is currently serving twenty life sentences of life imprisonment in Broadmoor Hospital. He was denied an appeal in 2010 which means that life actually means life for Sutcliffe, he will never be released from prison.
Home Life And Career
Peter Sutcliffe was a loner at school, he left at the young age of fifteen and worked at several places. He worked for a short time as a gravedigger in the 1960’s. In November of 1971 he started work at a company called Baird Television LTD. Towards the end of his career at Baird he worked out on the road as a door to door salesman.
He left Baird in 1973 to work the late shift for a company called the Britannia Works of Anderton International. He was made redundant in 1975 and used the redundancy money to obtain his HGV (heavy goods vehicle) license. He began working for a company as a lorry driver in September 1975. This career was short lived as in 1976 Sutcliffe was sacked for stealing used tyres. He managed to find a new job as a lorry driver in October 1976.
Sutcliffe made an habit of using prostitutes in his younger life. It later became known that he had a bad experience with a prostitute who stole his money and this is said to have added to his violent and disturbing hatred towards women.
Peter Sutcliffe met Sonia Szurma on the 14th of February 1967, they lated married on the 10th of August 1974. They were unable to have children, Sonia suffered several miscarriages. In 1977 Sonia undertook a teacher training course and began working as a teacher. Sutcliffe and Sonia moved into their first home in September 1977. They lived at this house in Heaton, Bradford at the time of Sutcliffe’s arrest in January 1981.
In 1969 Sutcliffe went out looking for the prostitute who had taken his money. It was whilst he was looking for this woman that he committed his first assault. Sutcliffe said in his statement that he got out of his friends car and went across the road and hit a woman around the head with a sock that had something heavy in it. He said that the impact tore the sock and whatever was in it flew out. The woman he attacked had seen the registration on the van that Sutcliffe was using that night and reported it to the police. The police questioned Peter Sutcliffe about the attack and at that time he admitted to attacking the woman although he did say that he only used his hand. Luckily for Sutcliffe the prostitute said that she didn't want to take the charge any further and therefore no action was taken.
Peter Sutcliffe carried out his second attack on the 5th of July 1975. Anna Rogulskyj was walking home alone when she was hit by Sutcliffe with a ball hammer. He then slashed her stomach with a knife. Peter was disturbed by a neighbour and left before he could kill Anna. Anna survived after intensive surgery, however she was left severely traumatised after the horrific attack.
Sutcliffe performed a similar attack on a girl called Olive Smelt in a town called Halifax. He hit Olive from behind and then used a knife to slash her. Again he was disturbed and fled the scene without killing her. As well as her injuries Olive suffered emotionally and was later diagnosed with clinical depression.
An attack that Sutcliffe was not convicted for was on 14 year old Tracy Browne. Like the previous attacks he came at her from behind hitting her around the head five times. He confessed to this attack in 1992.
On the 30th of October 1975, Peter Sutcliffe committed his first murder. His victims name was Wilma McCann, a mother of four from the city of Leeds. Sutcliffe hit Wilma with a hammer twice and then stabbed her in the neck, chest and body fifteen times. Traces of semen were later found on the back of her underwear. Despite 150 police officers working on the case they were unable to find the murderer. Following Wilma’s death her children faced a lifetime of torment and much later in 2007 one her daughters committed suicide.
Sutcliffe murdered again in January 1976, he stabbed a girl called Emily Jackson 51 times. Emily Jackson was in desperate need of money and turned to prostitution to try and recover from her financial difficulties. Emily's family and friends were shocked to here of this when it was revealed. Sutcliffe attacked Emily like he had the others. He hit Emily on the head with a hammer and then stabbed her to death using a sharpened screwdriver. He stabbed her in the neck, chest and stomach. Before leaving her body Sutcliffe stamped on her thigh so hard that it left an impression of his boot.
On the 9th of May 1976 he attacked Marcella Claxton in Roundhay Park, he hit her from behind with a hammer. Sutcliffe was giving her a lift and they had stopped so that she could get out of the car to urinate. Sutcliffe left her without killing her and she later appeared at Peter Sutcliffe’s trial.
Irene Richardson was attacked in Roundhay Park by Peter Sutcliffe on the 5th of February 1977. He hit her several times with a hammer before mutilating her corpse with a knife.
Only two months later Sutcliffe killed Patricia “Tina” Atkinson (a know prostitute from Bradford.) Two months after this on the 26th of June he committed another murder, this was the murder of his youngest victim, 16 year old Jayne MacDonald. This was the first murder that Sutcliffe had committed where the victim was not a prostitute. This installed fear into British women as it appeared that no woman was safe.
On the 1st of October he murdered a prostitute from Manchester called Jean Jordan. Jean’s body was not found until many days later and it was obvious that it had been moved. In Sutcliffe's confession he said that he had given her a new £5 note and realised that it would be traceable so he went back to retrieve it. He was unable to find the note as it was hidden inside a secret compartment within her handbag. When he could not find the note he mutilated the body with a knife and moved it to another location.
The £5 note provided a big lead for the police officers and they interviewed 5,000 possible suspects including Sutcliffe, however they did not link him to the murder.
The police decided to stop looking for the person that received the £5 note in January 1978. Sutcliffe was interviewed by the ripper squad several times over the next few years and he was always disregarded.
January 1978 Sutcliffe killed yet another prostitute, Yvonne Pearson a 21 year old from Bradford. He hid her body under an old settee and it was found two months later. On the 31st of January Sutcliffe killed again this time it was another prostitute from Huddersfield called Helen Rytka.
Three months passed and then on the 16th of May Peter Sutcliffe killed Vera Millward in a car park attack in the grounds of Manchester Royal Infirmary.
A year went by with no further killings. Sutcliffe’s mum passed away during this period and this may have been a reason for the break in killings.
Sutcliffe killed again in April 1979, his victim was called Josephine Whitaker a nineteen year old building society clerk.
In 1979 the police Assistant Chief Constable received a taped message from a man claiming to be the “Yorkshire Ripper” the taped message said, "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 now than four years ago when I started." The taped message later turned out to a hoax and investigating this took the focus of many police officers therefore delaying the investigation by months.
The man responsible for the hoax tape, John Samuel Humble was charged in October 2005 for perverting the course of justice and on the 21st of March sentenced to eight years imprisonment.
On the 1st of September 1979 Peter Sutcliffe murdered Barbara Leach a 20 year old student from Bradford University, she was Sutcliffe’s sixteenth attack victim. The fact that she was yet another victim that wasn’t a prostitute understandably worried the police and public, was any woman safe?
Peter Sutcliffe was arrested for drink driving in April of 1980. He killed a further two women whilst awaiting trial, Marguerite Walls and Jacqueline Hill. He also attacked but did not kill two further women, Theresa Sykes and Dr. Uphadya Bandara.
Trevor Birdsall an old friend of Peter Sutcliffe reported Sutcliffe as a suspect but according to police the report was lost in all the case paperwork
1981 Peter Sutcliffe Is Arrested And Sent To Trial
Sutcliffe was stopped by police on Melbourne Avenue, Broomhill, Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, England. His car was fitted with false plates and for this he was arrested and taken to Dewsbury police station, West Yorkshire. He was questioned with regards to the ripper case as he matched the physical profile and characteristics of the many descriptions received from the public. When he was arrested for having false number plates he told police that he “needed a pee”. Suspicious the police returned to the scene the next day and discovered that Sutcliffe had (whilst he was “having a pee”) hidden a knife, hammer and a rope. His house was consequently searched and his wife was taken into the police station for questioning.
After only two days of questioning Peter Sutcliffe confessed that he was the “Yorkshire Ripper” He quite calmly went on to describe in horrific detail the murders that he had committed. He didn’t show any signs of emotion except for Jayne MacDonald, his youngest victim. Sutcliffe was charged on the 5th of January 1981 at Dewsbury police station.
At his trial Sutcliffe claimed that he was the tool of Gods will and he pleaded not guilty to the murders but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Sutcliffe's trial went on for two weeks and he was finally found guilty for all murders and sentenced to life in jail. In 2010 his sentence was extend meaning that he will not leave jail alive. Unless of course there is a change or judicial developments to say otherwise.
Prison And Broadmoor Hospital
Once imprisoned Peter Sutcliffe decided to change his name to Peter Coonan, Coonan was his late mothers surname. Sutcliffe started his sentence in HMP Parkhurst in May 1981. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and requests were made for him to be transferred to Broadmoor Hospital. The initial application was blocked but eventually he was transferred in March 1984.