|Birth Day:||June 2, 1946|
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He dropped out of school at age fifteen and held jobs as a traveling salesman and a gravedigger.
Sutcliffe met Sonia Szurma on 14 February 1967; they married on 10 August 1974. She suffered several miscarriages and they were informed that she would not be able to have children. She resumed a teacher training course, during which time she had an affair with an ice-cream van driver. When she completed the course in 1977 and began teaching, she and Sutcliffe used her salary to buy a house in Heaton, Bradford, into which they moved on 26 September 1977, and where they were living at the time of Sutcliffe's arrest.
Referring to the period between 1969, when Sutcliffe first came to the attention of police, and 1975, the year of the murder of Wilma McCann, the report states: "There is a curious and unexplained lull in Sutcliffe's criminal activities" and "it is my firm conclusion that between 1969 and 1980 Sutcliffe was probably responsible for many attacks on unaccompanied women, which he has not yet admitted, not only in the West Yorkshire and Manchester areas but also in other parts of the country". In 1969, Sutcliffe, described in the Byford Report as an "otherwise unremarkable young man", came to the notice of police on two occasions over incidents with prostitutes. Later that year, in September, he was also arrested in Bradford's red light district for being in possession of a hammer, an offensive weapon, but he was charged with "going equipped for stealing" as it was assumed he was a potential burglar. The report said that it was clear he had on at least one occasion attacked a Bradford sex worker with a cosh.
After leaving Baird Television, Sutcliffe worked nightshifts at the Britannia Works of Anderton International from April 1973. In February 1975, he took redundancy and used half of the £400 pay-off to train as a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver. On 5 March 1976, he was dismissed for the theft of used tyres. He was unemployed until October 1976, when he found a job as an HGV driver for T.& W.H. Clark (Holdings) Ltd. on the Canal Road Industrial Estate in Bradford.
Birdsall visited Bradford Police Station the day after sending the letter to repeat his misgivings about Sutcliffe. He added that he was with Sutcliffe when he got out of a car to pursue a woman with whom he had had a bar room dispute in Halifax on 16 August 1975. This was the date and place of the Olive Smelt attack. A report compiled on the visit was lost, despite a "comprehensive search" which took place after Sutcliffe's arrest, according to the report. Byford said:
Sutcliffe committed his next murder in Leeds in January 1976, when he stabbed 42-year-old Emily Jackson 52 times. In dire financial straits, Jackson had been using the family van (with her husband's agreement and support) to exchange sexual favours for money. Sutcliffe picked up Jackson, who was soliciting outside the Gaiety pub on Roundhay Road, then drove about half a mile to some derelict buildings on Enfield Terrace in the Manor Industrial Estate. Sutcliffe hit her on the head with a hammer, and then dragged her body into a rubbish strewn yard and used a sharpened screwdriver to stab her in the neck, chest and abdomen. Sutcliffe stomped on her thigh, leaving behind an impression of his boot.
On 1 October 1977 Sutcliffe murdered Jean Jordan, a sex worker from Manchester. In a confession, Sutcliffe said he had realised the new £5 note he had given her was traceable. After hosting a family party at his new home, he returned to the wasteland behind Manchester's Southern Cemetery, where he had left the body, to retrieve the note. Unable to find it, he mutilated Jordan's corpse and moved it.
The police discontinued the search for the person who received the £5 note in January 1978. Although Sutcliffe was interviewed about it, he was not investigated further (he was contacted and disregarded by the Ripper Squad on several further occasions). That month, Sutcliffe killed again. His victim was Yvonne Pearson, a 21-year-old prostitute from Bradford. He repeatedly bludgeoned her about the head with a ball-peen hammer then jumped on her chest before stuffing horse-hair into her mouth from a discarded sofa under which he hid her body near Lumb Lane.
Based on the recorded message, police began searching for a man with a Wearside accent, which linguists narrowed down to the Castletown area of Sunderland. The hoaxer, dubbed "Wearside Jack", sent two letters to police and the Daily Mirror in March 1978 boasting of his crimes. The letters, signed "Jack the Ripper", claimed responsibility for the murder of 26-year-old Joan Harrison in Preston in November 1975. At the time, police mistakenly believed that the Preston murder was not public knowledge.
On 4 April 1979, Sutcliffe killed Josephine Whitaker, a 19-year-old building society clerk whom he attacked on Savile Park Moor in Halifax as she was walking home. Despite forensic evidence, police efforts were diverted for several months following receipt of the taped message purporting to be from the murderer taunting Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, who was leading the investigation. The tape contained a man's voice saying "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."
On 1 September, Sutcliffe murdered 20-year-old Barbara Leach, a Bradford University student. Her body was dumped at the rear of 13 Ashgrove under a pile of bricks, close to the university and her lodgings. It was his 16th attack. The murder of a woman who was not a sex worker again alarmed the public and prompted an expensive publicity campaign emphasising the Wearside connection. Despite the false lead, Sutcliffe was interviewed on at least two other occasions in 1979. Despite matching several forensic clues and being on the list of 300 names in connection with the £5 note, he was not strongly suspected. Sutcliffe was interviewed by police nine times in total.
West Yorkshire police reflected Sutcliffe's own misogyny and sexist attitudes, according to multiple sources. Jim Hobson, a senior West Yorkshire detective, told a press conference in October 1979 the perpetrator
In April 1980, Sutcliffe was arrested for drunk driving. While awaiting trial, he killed two more women. He murdered 47-year-old Marguerite Walls on the night of 20 August, and 20-year-old Jacqueline Hill, a student at Leeds University, on the night of 17 November. Hill's body was found on wasteland near the Arndale Centre. He also attacked three other women, who survived; Uphadya Bandara in Leeds on 24 September, Maureen Lea (known as Mo), an art student attacked in the grounds of Leeds University on 25 October, and 16-year-old Theresa Sykes, attacked in Huddersfield on the night of 5 November. On 25 November, Trevor Birdsall, an associate of Sutcliffe, reported him to the police as a suspect, but the information vanished into the paperwork already accumulated.
The Byford Report's major findings were contained in a summary published by the Home Secretary, William Whitelaw, the first time precise details of the bungled police investigation had been disclosed. Byford described delays in following up vital tip-offs from Trevor Birdsall, an associate of Sutcliffe since 1966. On 25 November 1980, Birdsall sent an anonymous letter to police, the text of which ran as follows:
On 2 January 1981, Sutcliffe was stopped by the police with 24-year-old prostitute Olivia Reivers in the driveway of Light Trades House in Melbourne Avenue, Broomhill, Sheffield. A police check by probationary constable Robert Hydes revealed his car had false number plates and Sutcliffe was arrested and transferred to Dewsbury Police Station. At Dewsbury he was questioned in relation to the Yorkshire Ripper case as he matched many of the known physical characteristics. The next day police returned to the scene of the arrest and discovered a knife, hammer and rope he had discarded when he briefly slipped away from the police after telling them he was "bursting for a pee". Sutcliffe hid a second knife in the toilet cistern at the police station when he was permitted to use the toilet. The police obtained a search warrant for his home at 6 Garden Lane in Heaton, Bradford, and brought his wife in for questioning.
He pleaded guilty to seven charges of attempted murder. The prosecution intended to accept Sutcliffe's plea after four psychiatrists diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, but the trial judge, Justice Sir Leslie Boreham, demanded an unusually detailed explanation of the prosecution reasoning. After a two-hour representation by the Attorney-General Sir Michael Havers, a 90-minute lunch break and another 40 minutes of legal discussion, the judge rejected the diminished responsibility plea and the expert testimonies of the psychiatrists, insisting that the case should be dealt with by a jury. The trial proper was set to commence on 5 May 1981.
The Attorney General, Sir Michael Havers QC, at the trial in 1981 said of Sutcliffe's victims in his opening statement: "Some were prostitutes, but perhaps the saddest part of the case is that some were not. The last six attacks were on totally respectable women." This drew condemnation from the English Collective of Prostitutes, who protested outside the Old Bailey. Nina Lopez, who was one of the ECP protestors in 1981, told The Independent forty years later, Sir Michael's comments were "an indictment of the whole way in which the police and the establishment were dealing with the Yorkshire Ripper case".
Following his conviction and incarceration, Sutcliffe chose to use the name Coonan, his mother's maiden name. He began his sentence at HMP Parkhurst on 22 May 1981. Despite being found sane at his trial, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Attempts to send him to a secure psychiatric unit were blocked. While at Parkhurst he was seriously assaulted by James Costello, a 35-year-old career criminal with several convictions for violence. On 10 January 1983, he followed Sutcliffe into the recess of F2, the hospital wing at Parkhurst Prison, and plunged a broken coffee jar twice into the left side of Sutcliffe's face, creating four wounds requiring 30 stitches. In March 1984 Sutcliffe was sent to Broadmoor Hospital, under Section 47 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
In 1988, the mother of Sutcliffe's last victim, Jacqueline Hill, during action for damages on behalf of her daughter's estate, argued in the High Court that the police had failed to use reasonable care in apprehending the murderer of her daughter in Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire. The House of Lords held that the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire did not owe a duty of care to the victim due to the lack of proximity and therefore failing on the second limb of the Caparo test. After Sutcliffe's death in November 2020, West Yorkshire Police issued an apology for the "language, tone and terminology" used by the force at the time of the criminal investigation.
Sutcliffe attacked Olive Smelt in Halifax in August. Employing the same modus operandi, he struck her from behind and used a knife to slash her, this time above her buttocks. Again he was interrupted, and left his victim badly injured but alive. Like Rogulskyj, Smelt suffered from emotional and mental health problems, including clinical depression. She told the police her attacker had made a comment about the weather in a Yorkshire accent, but this information was ignored. On 27 August, Sutcliffe attacked 14-year-old Tracy Browne in Silsden. He struck her from behind and hit her on the head five times while she was walking along a country lane. He ran off when he saw the lights of a passing car, leaving his victim requiring brain surgery. Sutcliffe was not convicted of the attack, but confessed to it in 1992.
His wife obtained a separation from him around 1989 and a divorce in July 1994. On 23 February 1996, Sutcliffe was attacked in his room in Broadmoor Hospital's Henley Ward. Paul Wilson, a convicted robber, asked to borrow a videotape before attempting to strangle him with the cable from a pair of stereo headphones. Two other convicted murderers, Kenneth Erskine and Jamie Devitt, intervened on hearing screams.
After an attack with a pen by fellow inmate Ian Kay on 10 March 1997, Sutcliffe lost the vision in his left eye, and his right eye was severely damaged. Kay admitted trying to kill Sutcliffe, and was ordered to be detained in a secure mental hospital without limit of time. In 2003 it was reported that Sutcliffe had developed diabetes.
Sutcliffe's father died in 2004 and was cremated. On 17 January 2005 Sutcliffe was allowed to visit Grange-over-Sands where the ashes had been scattered. The decision to allow the temporary release was initiated by David Blunkett and ratified by Charles Clarke when he became Home Secretary. Sutcliffe was accompanied by four members of the hospital staff. The visit led to front-page tabloid headlines.
The hoaxer case was re-opened in 2005, and DNA taken from envelopes was entered into the national database, in which it matched that of John Samuel Humble, an unemployed alcoholic and long-time resident of the Ford Estate in Sunderland – a few miles from Castletown – whose DNA had been taken following a drunk and disorderly offence in 2001. On 20 October 2005, Humble was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice for sending the hoax letters and tape. Humble was remanded in custody and on 21 March 2006 was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. Humble died on 30 July 2019, aged 63.
The first victim to lose her life in a Sutcliffe attack was Wilma McCann on 30 October. McCann, from Scott Hall in Leeds, was a mother of four. Sutcliffe struck her twice with a hammer before stabbing her 15 times in the neck, chest and abdomen. An extensive inquiry, involving 150 police officers and 11,000 interviews, failed to find the culprit. One of McCann's daughters died by suicide in December 2007, reportedly after suffering years of depression over her mother's death.
On 22 December 2007, Sutcliffe was attacked by fellow inmate Patrick Sureda, who lunged at him with a metal cutlery knife while shouting "You fucking raping, murdering bastard, I'll blind your fucking other one". Sutcliffe flung himself backwards and the blade missed his right eye, stabbing him in the cheek.
On 17 February 2009, it was reported that Sutcliffe was "fit to leave Broadmoor". On 23 March 2010, the Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, was questioned by Julie Kirkbride, Conservative MP for Bromsgrove, in the House of Commons seeking reassurance for a constituent, a victim of Sutcliffe, that he would remain in prison. Straw responded that whilst the matter of Sutcliffe's release was a parole board matter, "that all the evidence that I have seen on this case, and it's a great deal, suggests to me that there are no circumstances in which this man will be released".
The trial judge said Sutcliffe was beyond redemption, and hoped he would never leave prison. He recommended a minimum term of 30 years to be served before parole could be considered, meaning Sutcliffe would have been unlikely to be freed until at least 2011. On 16 July 2010, the High Court issued Sutcliffe with a whole life tariff, meaning he was never to be released. After his trial, Sutcliffe admitted two other attacks. It was decided that prosecution for these offences was "not in the public interest". West Yorkshire Police made it clear that the victims wished to remain anonymous.
An application by Sutcliffe for a minimum term to be set, offering the possibility of parole after that date if it is thought safe to release him, was heard by the High Court of Justice on 16 July 2010. The High Court decided that Sutcliffe would never be released. Mr Justice Mitting stated:
Psychological Reports describing his mental state were taken into consideration, as was the severity of his crimes. Sutcliffe spent the rest of his life in custody. On 4 August 2010, a spokeswoman for the Judicial Communications Office confirmed that Sutcliffe had initiated an appeal against the decision.
The hearing for Sutcliffe's appeal against the ruling began on 30 November 2010 at the Court of Appeal. The appeal was rejected on 14 January 2011. On 9 March 2011, the Court of Appeal rejected Sutcliffe's application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
When Sutcliffe was stripped at the police station he was wearing an inverted V-neck sweater under his trousers. The sleeves had been pulled over his legs and the V-neck exposed his genital area. The front of the elbows were padded to protect his knees as, presumably, he knelt over his victims' corpses. The sexual implications of this outfit were considered obvious, but it was not made public until the 2003 publication of the book, Wicked Beyond Belief: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, by Michael Bilton. After two days of intensive questioning, on the afternoon of 4 January 1981 Sutcliffe suddenly declared he was the Ripper. Over the next day, Sutcliffe calmly described his many attacks. Weeks later he claimed God had told him to murder the women. "The women I killed were filth," he told police. "Bastard prostitutes who were littering the streets. I was just cleaning up the place a bit." He displayed regret only when talking of his youngest murder victim, Jayne MacDonald, and when questioned about the killing of Joan Harrison, he vehemently denied responsibility. Harrison's murder had been linked to the Ripper killings by the "Wearside Jack" claim, but in 2011, DNA evidence revealed the crime had actually been committed by convicted sex offender Christopher Smith, who had died in 2008.
In December 2015, Sutcliffe was assessed as being "no longer mentally ill". In August 2016, a medical tribunal ruled that he no longer required clinical treatment for his mental condition, and could be returned to prison. Sutcliffe is reported to have been transferred from Broadmoor to Frankland Prison in Durham in August 2016.
On 26 August 2016 the police investigation was the subject of BBC Radio 4's The Reunion. Sue MacGregor discussed the investigation with John Domaille, who later became assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire Police; Andy Laptew, who was a junior detective who interviewed Sutcliffe; Elaine Benson, who worked in the incident room and interviewed suspects; David Zackrisson, who investigated the "Wearside Jack" tape and letters in Sunderland and Christa Ackroyd, a local journalist in Halifax.
In 2017, West Yorkshire Police launched Operation Painthall to determine if Sutcliffe was guilty of unsolved crimes dating back to 1964. This inquiry also looked at the killings of two sex workers in southern Sweden in 1980. As Sutcliffe was a lorry driver, it was theorised that he had been in Denmark and Sweden, making use of the ferry across the Oresund Strait. West Yorkshire Police later stated that they were "absolutely certain" that Sutcliffe had never been in Sweden.
A three part series of one hour episodes, The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story aired on BBC Four in March 2019. This included interviews with some of the victims, their family, police and journalists who covered the case by film-maker Liza Williams. In the series she questions whether the attitude of both the police and society towards women prevented Sutcliffe from being caught sooner. On 31 July 2020 the series won the BAFTA prize for Specialist Factual TV programming.
Sutcliffe died in University Hospital of North Durham on 13 November 2020, aged 74, where he is said to have refused treatment for COVID-19 after having previously returned to HMP Frankland following treatment for a suspected heart attack at the same hospital two weeks prior. Sutcliffe also had a number of other underlying health problems.
Peter was born into a working-class English family of the Catholic faith. In August of 1974, he married a woman named Sonia Szurma.
Currently, Peter Sutcliffe is 76 years, 8 months and 5 days old. Peter Sutcliffe will celebrate 77th birthday on a Friday 2nd of June 2023. Below we countdown to Peter Sutcliffe upcoming birthday.