Updated: November 15, 2020 12:37:30 pm
Peter Sutcliffe, dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper, who was convicted of killing 13 women and attempting to kill at least seven more across Yorkshire and Manchester in the UK between 1975 and 1980, has died. He was 74 years old and was serving a life term in connection with murders he committed in Northern England in the 1970s.
Who was Peter Sutcliffe?
Sutcliffe was born in Shipley, West Yorkshire on June 2, 1946 and left school at the age of 15, after which he did a variety of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs. As per records of his case maintained by the UK government, during the period in which he committed the crimes, Sutcliffe was employed as a tyre fitter and a lorry driver. He married Sonia Szurma in 1974.
Sutcliffe was arrested from Sheffield on January 2, 1981 when he was spotted by the police in the company of a prostitute in Sheffield’s red-light area. The successive murders and assaults he committed over a period of five years on prostitutes and unaccompanied women left the women of the area under a great deal of fear.
Sutcliffe was later dubbed as the Yorkshire Ripper–fashioned after “Jack the Ripper”, the name attributed to a serial killer who was active in London in 1888–because of how he mutilated his victims’ bodies with a hammer and a screwdriver.
He was convicted in May 1981 at the Central Criminal Court for 13 cases of murder and seven cases of attempted murder and was sentenced to 20 concurrent terms of life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he should serve a minimum of 30 years.
In Lawrence Byford’s review of the police investigation into the Yorkshire Ripper case, Sutcliffe has been described as an “otherwise unremarkable man” who came to the notice of the police on two occasions in connection with incidents involving prostitutes in 1969.
“He was not notably abnormal, although he had gained a reputation for a rather macabre sense of humour whilst employed as a grave digger at Bingley. During his late teens he developed an unhealthy interest in prostitutes…” the report says.
A report in the BBC notes that at first, the police wrongly believed that the murders were a result of the killer’s hatred of prostitution, but as the killings continued it became clear that the backgrounds of his victims was not important to him.
The crimes he committed
Sutcliffe’s first conviction came after the attempted murder of Anna Rogulskyj in July 1975, who was attacked by a hammer and suffered from severe head injuries and a number of superficial slash wounds to the body. Over a month after this incident, Sutcliffe attacked Olive Smelt with a hammer inflicting serious head injuries. During this incident, he also used a knife and inflicted two slash wounds on her back.
His first murder victim in his series of killings was Wilma McCann, a prostitute in Leeds. Sutcliffe hit her on the head with a hammer and one of the blows penetrated the full thickness of the skull. McCann was also stabbed once in the neck and 14 times in the chest and abdomen. The Byford report notes, “In what was to become a standard Ripper trademark, McCann’s clothing had been disturbed so that before the stab wounds were inflicted the whole of her torso was displayed.”
Sutcliffe committed the final murder in the series on November 17, 1980. He attacked Jacquiline Hill in Leeds who suffered from a number of violent hammer blows to the head and was dragged onto a waste ground. In response to this crime, a number of newspaper offices in the area added to the reward for Sutcliffe, bringing the total to over 50,000 pounds.
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