Yorkshire Ripper survivor says attack ‘gave her energy’ and drive to succeed as an artist 

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A Yorkshire Ripper survivor who was left with a broken jaw and horrific facial injuries after he battered her with a screwdriver has revealed how the attack pushed her to succeed.    

Mo Lea, now 61, had been planning her 21st birthday with friends in Leeds, West Yorkshire in October 1980 when she was attacked by Peter Sutcliffe. 

At the time, Sutcliffe had murdered 12 women and violently attacked another seven.

Mo had been walking home when she was set upon by a man and attacked with a screwdriver. Her life was saved by a passing woman who heard her screams.

She was assaulted so brutally that her parents didn’t even recognise her in the hospital, her jaw broken, her face bloodied and bruised.

Several months later, while recuperating at home in Liverpool, she recognised Sutcliffe on the TV as her assailant.

Now, she says she wishes Sutcliffe had confessed to this murderous onslaught before his death from Covid-19 earlier this month.

However, she also revealed the power she gained by surviving his assault. 

Mo Lea, now 61, had been walking home when she was set upon by a man and attacked with a screwdriver. Her life was saved by a passing woman who heard her screams. She later recognised her attacker as Peter Sutcliffe

Now, she says she wishes Sutcliffe had confessed to this murderous onslaught before his death from Covid-19 earlier this month

Now, she says she wishes Sutcliffe had confessed to this murderous onslaught before his death from Covid-19 earlier this month

Now, she says she wishes Sutcliffe had confessed to this murderous onslaught before his death from Covid-19 earlier this month

‘When you have had trauma like that, it gives you an edge,’ Mo said.

‘If you’ve been close to death, you feel you’ve been granted this freedom to live.

‘It’s given me the energy that a lot of people don’t necessarily have or feel the need to have.

‘It made me feel that I deserved more than just being defined as a victim of the mythical Yorkshire Ripper.

‘It has compelled me to be successful in my career.’

Since the Ripper’s blood curdling assault, Mo has flourished as an artist with exhibitions as far afield as New York.

She’s penned a passionate account of her struggle called Facing the Yorkshire Ripper: The Art of Survival.

Mo credits her drive to succeed and constantly pushed herself to survive Sutcliffe’s horrific battering.

Almost 40 years ago to the day, the art student had been planning her 21st birthday with friends.

It was October 1980, and the police were still mistakenly searching for the hoax caller known as Wearside Jack.

Billboards were plastered with his handwriting, and the radio played his North East accent in the vain hope someone would recognise it.

Margaret Thatcher had warned women not to walk alone at night and the Ripper had cast a web of fear across the North of England.

After planning her party, for the first time in months, brave Mo decided to take a shortcut home on her own.

The lights of the main road glistened in the distance, as the 20-year-old paced through the darkness.

A man waiting at a bus stop called out to her: ‘Hey! You all right?’

After talking for a few minutes, Mo began walking to the main road before hearing footsteps thudding behind her.

She ran as fast as she could before she was clubbed around the head, and violently attacked with a screwdriver.

Fortunately for Mo a woman – Lorna Smith – heard her scream, and disturbed the attacker – likely saving her life.

It was the exact same modus operandi that the Ripper had been using to kill women for years. 

He was eventually convicted of 13 murders and seven attempted murders, and sentenced to a whole-life tariff.

An overweight Sutcliffe, 74, died in Durham on November 13, after testing positive from coronavirus.

Police never charged him for Mo’s attack, and despite several investigations the Ripper has never admitted carrying out that assault.

And the artist admitted she would have liked Sutcliffe to have confessed.

‘I’ve got to be honest, it would have been nice,’ Mo said.

‘It was very hard when I realised I was never going to get justice.

‘I had to learn to live with that.

‘I was rather envious of those who had got the confirmation.

‘There was a while where I started to think, do people believe in me?

‘Perhaps they think I’m a drama queen because there was no concrete evidence.

‘I could feel resentful and cheated now that he’s died because he never confessed, but I don’t.

‘Deep down I knew he would never do it.

‘He’s a psychopath and psychopaths don’t want to let go of the truth, it’s their way of being in control.’

A week before Sutcliffe’s death, while filming a documentary, Mo was told by a former detective that West Yorkshire Police were sure that the Ripper had attacked her.

He said: ‘We know he did it. We always knew it was him. But our hands were tied.’

Mo says she burst into tears.

‘I didn’t know whether to punch him or hug him,’ she said.

‘Why have you waited 40 years to tell me what we all know?

‘That one per cent of uncertainty is the most toxic thing you can do to anybody.

‘You start fantasising that there’s someone out there to try to kill you.’

And then on Friday October 13, Mo found out her nemesis the Yorkshire Ripper had died.

He had contracted Covid-19, and been rushed to hospital near HMP Frankland, in County Durham.

However in the early hours of the morning his lungs had stopped working.

‘The first people I thought about were my family,’ Mo said.

‘And so I phoned my mum and dad and said: ‘He’s dead. I’m not.’

‘I said: ‘I’m getting on with life. I’m doing really well.’

‘I thought his death is only a tiny part of my life.

‘He’s taken his secrets with him permanently.

‘But I don’t think we should feel cheated by that.’

Mo, who lives in Bedford, Beds, has been using her art to come to terms with her attack.

In 2017, she painted Peter Sutcliffe for the first time and then ripped up the portrait.

‘It reframed the way I thought about looking at his face,’ Mo says.

‘Stop running away from it, or being fearful.

‘Whenever I saw that face, it could trigger me, and I would just have to brace myself and try and get over it.

‘It felt very satisfying ripping him up, it felt very freeing and empowering.

‘I felt I had turned the tables and objectified Peter Sutcliffe instead of him objectifying me.’

And now Mo has written a chronicle of how she has been empowered by her survival from the Ripper’s horrifying attack.

She said: ‘I started to develop an account of how I survived and how it motivated me to be the best that I could be, because I survived.

‘And the survival kind of gave me an edge really.

‘I was trying to reposition myself not as a victim, but as a survivor.

‘I worried what people assumed a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper would be like – perhaps stuck at home afraid to go out.

‘I wanted to show people that that was not me, it has spurred me on.

‘I did not want to be cornered and positioned as a tragic figure in a horror story, that was not of my making.

‘His death doesn’t give me any closure.

‘But I’ve written a book and I’ve made paintings.

‘You learn to live with these things and move on and not be defined by them.’ 

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