Yorkshire Ripper dead at 74

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Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe (pictured) has died at the age of 74 after contracting coronavirus

The Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe has died this morning at the age of 74 after refusing treatment for coronavirus.    

The serial killer, who murdered at least 13 women in the 1970s and 1980s, has died at the University Hospital of North Durham.

His lungs failed overnight and he was pronounced dead at 1.10am, with no visitors by his bedside because of coronavirus restrictions.

A Prison Service spokesman said: ‘HMP Frankland prisoner Peter Coonan [born Sutcliffe] died in hospital on 13 November. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has been informed’.

A source told The Sun: ‘No tears were shed. His death was as pitiful as the vile life he had lived.’

Sutcliffe was returned to HMP Frankland around ten days ago after a five-night stay in a local hospital with heart problems. 

However on his return to the jail’s  medical isolation unit Sutcliffe began to complain again of shortness of breath and chest pain, later testing positive for covid-19 on November 7.

A composite of 12 of the 13 victims murdered by Sutcliffe. Victims are: (top row, left to right) Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia Atkinson; (middle row, left to right) Jayne McDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka; (bottom row, left to right) Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Jacqueline Hill

A composite of 12 of the 13 victims murdered by Sutcliffe. Victims are: (top row, left to right) Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia Atkinson; (middle row, left to right) Jayne McDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka; (bottom row, left to right) Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Jacqueline Hill

A composite of 12 of the 13 victims murdered by Sutcliffe. Victims are: (top row, left to right) Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia Atkinson; (middle row, left to right) Jayne McDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka; (bottom row, left to right) Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Jacqueline Hill

Sutcliffe, 74, was serving a whole life term for his horrific crimes, has suffered from angina, diabetes and near-blindness following an attack from a fellow inmate, in recent years

Sutcliffe, 74, was serving a whole life term for his horrific crimes, has suffered from angina, diabetes and near-blindness following an attack from a fellow inmate, in recent years

Sutcliffe, 74, was serving a whole life term for his horrific crimes, has suffered from angina, diabetes and near-blindness following an attack from a fellow inmate, in recent years

The University Hospital of North Durham, County Durham, where Peter Sutcliffe died after being admitted for covid-19 complications and heart problems

The University Hospital of North Durham, County Durham, where Peter Sutcliffe died after being admitted for covid-19 complications and heart problems

The University Hospital of North Durham, County Durham, where Peter Sutcliffe died after being admitted for covid-19 complications and heart problems

Peter Sutcliffe Peter Sutcliffe in prison van on way to the Old Bailey in London, May 1981

Peter Sutcliffe Peter Sutcliffe in prison van on way to the Old Bailey in London, May 1981

Peter Sutcliffe Peter Sutcliffe in prison van on way to the Old Bailey in London, May 1981

He was being monitored in isolation at the jail over the weekend when his health began to deteriorate. 

The notorious serial killer was then re-admitted to hospital on Sunday – but he has died five days later. 

It was his second stay at the University Hospital of North Durham in less than a week.

On his first visit he spent five nights there, from November 3, and was discharged after testing negative for Covid – he had complained of covid-19-like symptoms on admission to hospital.

Three years after he was jailed, Sutcliffe was moved to Broadmoor Hospital after he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

He was transferred to HMP Frankland in 2016 after psychiatrists said he was stable enough for jail.

Crowds gathered outside Dewsbury court in England after the Yorkshire Ripper was caught and appeared there to be charged with the murder of Jacqueline Hill

Crowds gathered outside Dewsbury court in England after the Yorkshire Ripper was caught and appeared there to be charged with the murder of Jacqueline Hill

Crowds gathered outside Dewsbury court in England after the Yorkshire Ripper was caught and appeared there to be charged with the murder of Jacqueline Hill

THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER’S REIGN OF TERROR: A TIMELINE OF HIS MURDERS 

Photograph of Peter Sutcliffe (in 1946) an English serial killer who was dubbed the "Yorkshire Ripper" by the press

Photograph of Peter Sutcliffe (in 1946) an English serial killer who was dubbed the "Yorkshire Ripper" by the press

Photograph of Peter Sutcliffe (in 1946) an English serial killer who was dubbed the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ by the press

 Sutcliffe, who lived in Bradford, West Yorkshire, believed he was on a ‘mission from God’ to kill prostitutes, although not all his victims were.

His other victims, aged between 16 and 47, included two university students, a civil servant, a bank clerk and a supermarket worker.

Sutcliffe was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper because he mutilated his victims using a screw driver, hammer and knife.

He was also convicted of seven counts of attempted murder in and around Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Timeline:

Summer 1975: Peter Sutcliffe begins attacking women, two in Keighley and one in Halifax. All three survive and police do not link the attacks.

30 October 1975: Sutcliffe carries out his first fatal attack on Wilma McCann, a 28-year-old prostitute from the Chapeltown district of Leeds.

20 January 1976: He murders Emily Jackson, 42, from Leeds, battering her with a hammer and stabbing her with a screwdriver.

5 February 1977: He kills Irene Richardson, 28, another prostitute from Leeds.

23 April 1977: Sutcliffe strikes for the first time in his home town of Bradford, murdering 32-year-old Patricia Atkinson.

26 June 1977: The case comes to the attention of the national press after Sutcliffe murders Jayne MacDonald, a 16-year-old shop assistant. The murder, and the realisation that a serial killer is on the loose in Yorkshire, shocks the country.

The attacker is dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper by the press, and West Yorkshire Chief Constable Ronald Gregory appoints his most senior detective, Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, to investigate the murders.

1 October 1977: Sutcliffe chooses Manchester for his next attack – on Jean Jordan, 20. He dumps her body on an allotment and throws her bag, containing a brand new £5 note he gave her, into nearby shrubs.

Police find the bag and trace the serial number on the note back to the payroll of Yorkshire hauliers T and W H Clark, who employ Peter Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe is interviewed by police but provides an alibi placing him at a party.

21 January to 16 May 1978: Sutcliffe murders three prostitutes – Yvonne Pearson, 21, from Bradford; Helen Rytka, 18, from Huddersfield, and 40-year-old Vera Millward from Manchester.

4 April 1979: Sutcliffe kills Halifax Building Society clerk Josephine Whitaker, 19.

June 1979: A tape is sent to police by a man calling himself Jack the Ripper, who has already sent a series of hand-written letters from Sunderland. Assistant Chief Constable Oldfield mistakenly decides that these are the work of the Ripper. Wearside Jack, as he becomes known, is pinpointed to the Castletown district of Sunderland by voice experts. Detectives are told they can discount suspects who do not have a Wearside accent.

July 1979: Police interview Sutcliffe for the fifth time. Detective Constables Andrew Laptew and Graham Greenwood are suspicious but their report is filed because his voice and handwriting do not fit the letters and tape.

2 September 1979: Sutcliffe murders Barbara Leach, 20, in Bradford.

2 October 1979: A £1million campaign is launched to catch the Yorkshire Ripper.

20 August 1980: The Ripper claims another victim, Marguerite Walls, 47, from Leeds, followed by Jacqueline Hill, 20, a Leeds University student, on November 17.

November 1980: Detective Chief Superintendent James Hobson replaces Oldfield. Hobson downgrades the importance of the Wearside Jack tape and letters.

3 January 1981: Sutcliffe admits he is the Yorkshire Ripper after police arrest him with a prostitute. Police admit the killer does not have a Wearside accent. 

22 May 1981: Sutcliffe is jailed for life at the Old Bailey. The judge recommends a minimum sentence of 30 years. He is transferred to Broadmoor secure hospital in Berkshire in 1984.

24 May 1989: Wife of Sutcliffe wins damages.

21 March 2006: John Humble, a former builder, is sentenced to eight years in prison after he admits to being the Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer known as Wearside Jack.

1 June 2006: A report which has been kept secret for nearly 25 years reveals that Sutcliffe probably committed more crimes than the 13 murders and seven attempted murders for which he was convicted. 

April 2017: Sutcliffe is questioned by police officers over 17 unsolved cases that bear similarities to his past crimes. He is not being investigated over any murders and it is unknown which of the incidents police think are linked to the serial killer. 

May 2017: Sutcliffe is investigated over the murders of two women in Sweden. Detectives are said to have enquired about the murders of a 31-year-old woman found dead in Gothenburg in August 1980, and a 26-year-old woman found dead in Malmo a month later. Both bodies were found on building sites. 

Twisted life of the Yorkshire Ripper: Newly-married grave digger whose barbaric and bloody attacks terrorised the North – while police incompetence helped him slip the net 

Within the annals of 20th-century serial killers, one name – and one moniker – represents a particularly disturbing chapter.

The fear wrought by Peter Sutcliffe’s barbaric and bloody attacks on young women were compounded by the police incompetence that let him slip the net for so long.

Sutcliffe was the newly-married former grave digger whose brutal reign of terror instilled unshakeable worry in the North of England as police failed to pick up the clues in their pursuit of the notorious murderer known as the Yorkshire Ripper.

For five years, Sutcliffe stabbed, twisted and butchered the flesh of his victims.

They were teenage girls, shop assistants, prostitutes, clerks. They were mothers, daughters, sisters, wives. And the broad spectrum of victims from various walks of life meant that no woman was safe with Sutcliffe at large.

Evil spree that claimed the lives of 13 women 

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe’s five-year reign of terror claimed the lives of 13 women. They were:

– Wilma McCann, 28, from Chapeltown, Leeds, who was killed in October 1975.

– Emily Jackson, 42, a prostitute and mother-of-three from Morley, Leeds. Killed on January 20, 1976.

– Irene Richardson, 28, a mother-of-two from Chapeltown, Leeds. Killed on February 6, 1977.

– Patricia Atkinson, 32, a mother-of-three from Manningham, Bradford. Killed on April 24, 1977.

– Jayne MacDonald, 16, a shop assistant from Leeds. Killed on June 26, 1977.

– Jean Jordan, 21, from Manchester, who died between September 30 and October 11, 1977.

– Yvonne Pearson, 22, from Bradford. Murdered between January 20 and March 26, 1978.

– Helen Rytka, 18, from Huddersfield. Murdered on January 31, 1978.

– Vera Millward, 40, a mother-of-seven from Manchester, who was killed on May 16, 1978.

– Josephine Whitaker, 19, a building society worker from Halifax. Killed on April 4, 1979.

– Barbara Leach, 20, a student who was murdered while walking in Bradford on September 1, 1979.

– Marguerite Walls, 47, a civil servant from Leeds who was murdered on August 20, 1980

– Jacqueline Hill, 20, a student, who was found at Headingley on November 16, 1980. 

In all, 13 were killed and seven more were viciously attacked, although police remain convinced the Yorkshire Ripper’s grim roll call of female victims remains higher – not least because a red herring and copious missed opportunities gave Sutcliffe the chance to continue his murderous rampage.

Sutcliffe’s unexpected confession to police in 1981 was followed by his decision to contest the charges – leading to an Old Bailey trial during which he claimed he was on a mission from God to kill prostitutes.

He died on Friday November 13, aged 74, after close to four decades in custody. His killing spree, which began before he turned 30, remains among the most sickening murder investigations of the last century.

Peter William Sutcliffe was born on June 2 1946 in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

A relative loner at school, he left education aged 15 and took on a series of menial jobs. His work as a grave digger was said to have nurtured an awkward and macabre sense of humour.

On August 10 1974, Sutcliffe married Sonia. Less than a year later, the lorry driver picked up a hammer and began attacking women, two in Keighley and one in Halifax.

All three survived and police did not notice the similarities between the attacks.

The first fatality was Wilma McCann. The 28-year-old sex worker and mother-of-four was battered to death in the early hours of October 30 1975.

She was struck with a hammer and stabbed in the neck, chest and stomach after Sutcliffe picked her up in Leeds.

He was later to tell police: “After that first time, I developed and played up a hatred for prostitutes in order to justify within myself a reason why I had attacked and killed Wilma McCann.”

But life continued as normal for the Sutcliffes.

His next victim – 42-year-old Emily Jackson from Leeds – was murdered in similarly bloody circumstances in January the following year.

He would apparently wait more than a year before striking again. It was his fifth murder, that of 16-year-old Jayne MacDonald in April 1977, that saw the national press wake up to the fact a serial killer was on the loose.

Dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper, the assailant’s identity went unknown for years – in fact police were totally misled by a hoax which took detectives to Sunderland, allowing Sutcliffe to keep on killing.

In 1979, a tape was sent to police by a man calling himself Jack the Ripper. He had already sent a series of hand-written letters from Sunderland and police believed they were on to the killer, discounting all those without a Wearside accent on their substantial database of suspects – Sutcliffe included.

By the summer of that year, Sutcliffe had been interviewed five times. He also bore a significant resemblance to a widely-circulated image of the prime suspect while a banknote discovered near one victim’s body was traced to Sutcliffe’s employer at the time.

However, the fact his accent and handwriting did not match those of the hoaxer meant Sutcliffe remained a free man.

He was finally caught in January 1981 when police ran a check on his car to discover the number plates were stolen.

His passenger was 24-year-old street worker Olivia Reivers – detectives later discovered a hammer and a knife nearby. Their search was over.

Despite a 24-hour-long confession to the killings, Sutcliffe entered not-guilty pleas when indicted at court.

In May 1981, he was jailed for 20 life terms at the Old Bailey, the judge recommending a minimum sentence of 30 years.

He was transferred from Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight to Broadmoor secure hospital in Berkshire in 1984 after he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

More than two decades later, a secret report revealed that Sutcliffe probably committed more crimes than the 13 murders and seven attempted murders for which he was convicted.

He left Broadmoor and moved back into mainstream prison in 2016, serving at Frankland Prison, Durham.

He was taken to hospital in October 2020 after suffering a suspected heart attack and returned to the University Hospital of North Durham a fortnight later having contracted coronavirus.

Sutcliffe, who had reportedly refused treatment for Covid-19 and was also suffering from underlying health conditions, insisted on being addressed by his mother’s maiden name of Coonan, but will be forever known as the Ripper.

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